South Ribble Borough Council sets out new 'fairer' process of selecting the district's mayor

The longest-serving members of South Ribble Borough Council are to be given the chance to become the mayor of the district under a new arrangement which will see the title shared out between each of the political groups on the authority.

By Paul Faulkner
Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 5:38 pm
Updated Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 9:30 pm

The new policy means that the civic honour will be conferred on the basis of a three-year rotation between the trio of parties currently represented on the council to the member with the most years’ service when it is their group’s turn to hold the mayoralty.

A meeting of the council’s cabinet - at which the plan was approved - heard that the new system would be “more objective” than the “informal mechanisms” used previously.

The role is a ceremonial one and the mayor is expected to act in a non-partisan way when discharging their duties - which include chairing council meetings at which they could have the casting vote in the rare event of decision-making deadlock.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Cllr Harold Hancock being enrobed as mayor of South Ribble in May 2019. From now on, the role will rotate between political parties on an annual basis.

Read More

Read More
Penwortham playground to get more new equipment after parents push for a bigger ...

Reflecting on the fact that he had been the only Labour mayor of the borough in the decade from the late 2000s onwards, deputy council leader Mick Titherington said that the plan to rotate the title between political groups was “long overdue”.

“I thought there had been, if not abuse, then…misuse of the section of the mayor over [those] years.

“Since 2019 [when Labour took control of the council from the Conservatives], there has been an attempt to redress that and bring a bit of balance into it - so it's now appropriate that, going forward, we do adopt a fair and objective criteria for the section of the mayor.

“[They are] the civic leader of the borough, so it really should not be [done] on a political basis,” Cllr Titherington added.

The practical problems caused by the pandemic have recently led to extended mayoral terms in the borough, meaning that there have been only two mayors across the past three years - the Liberal Democrats' Harold Hancock and the current Labour office-holder Jane Bell.

The rotational arrangement due to come into force this summer will see Liberal Democrat group leader - and Howick and Priory ward member - David Howarth nominated as mayor for the forthcoming municipal year, with Labour’s Chris Lomax, from the Walton-le-Dale East ward, put forward as his deputy.

The practice of the deputy becoming mayor the following year will continue - and so a Conservative member will next hold the main title in 2024/25.

Cabinet member for finance, property and assets Matthew Tomlinson said that the change should “take a lot of the unnecessary heat out of the nominations for the mayoralty”.

Recalling his time as mayor in 2004/05, he added: “The preceding mayor was Jon Hesketh from the Conservative Party and the succeeding mayor was Dorothy Foster from the Liberal Democrat group. I forged a friendship with John in the year that I was his deputy and similarly with Dorothy Foster in the year that I was the mayor [and she the deputy] - and we worked really well together.

“Putting this down on paper…everybody will understand how you became the mayor, everybody will understand when their chance will come - and I think the vast majority of members will welcome that certainty.

The nominations for this year - and the new rotational system - will require approval at a forthcoming meeting of the full council.

Anybody nominated to be mayor is free to decline - and would be offered the position again the next time it was their political group’s turn.

If two members have the same length of service, the title would be awarded in alphabetical order of their names.

No cabinet member is allowed to become mayor of South Ribble.

Want to see fewer ads? Subscribers to the Lancashire Post get access to the ad-lite version of our website, which features 70% fewer ads and faster load times for a better experience. Find out more here.