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Downham mayor rule change idea rejected

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A bid to change the rules over how a West Norfolk town chooses its civic head has been rejected.

The proposals, if approved, would have meant councillors in Downham could not stand to be either mayor or deputy mayor unless they had served for at least five years as a representative there or elsewhere.

But the idea was overwhelmingly rejected at a meeting on Tuesday evening, with critics arguing it was unnecessary and overly restrictive on members' voting rights.

Downham Market 2. (2856220)
Downham Market 2. (2856220)

Deputy mayor Jenny Groom told her colleagues: “We elect the mayor and deputy mayor. We put our trust in that person.

“We’re not going to elect someone if we don’t think they can do the job.”

The proposal, which was put forward by Elizabeth Hendry, argued that a councillor who was chosen to be mayor or deputy mayor must have been elected to the council, rather than co-opted, in order to be eligible for the posts.

It suggested candidates should have served on a council for five years and be in their third year of continuous service to be considered as mayor, or second year for the deputy’s role.

It also argued that a mayor-elect and deputy mayor-elect should be chosen by members at the February council meeting and then formally elected to the roles at the first meeting of the subsequent municipal year, which takes place in May.

Mrs Hendry said the roles required a full understanding of how the council functions and the measures would ensure those who were chosen had the necessary qualities to carry them out.

She added: “We do need something that would prevent someone who has just been elected last week from standing as mayor. It doesn’t seem to me to be an unacceptable proposal.”

Meanwhile, Alan Pickering, who seconded the proposal, insisted the idea of a leader being elected by voters mattered, regardless of the level of politics being discussed.

He suggested residents may not like the idea of a mayor having being co-opted to the council in the same way that some voters objected to a politician becoming Prime Minister without winning a General Election.

But former mayor John Doyle claimed the measure was an undue restriction on the right of councillors to vote as they saw fit.

He also argued there should be no distinction between elected and co-opted members, adding: “We’re all councillors and we’re all equal.”

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