THE ceremonial making of the Winsford town mayor was turned into a political slanging match this week with Liberal Democrat councillors choosing to boycott the event.
Cllr Mike Kennedy was officially elected as the town mayor on Monday, taking over from fellow Labour member Cllr Steve Smith.
However, Cllr Kennedy did not expect the traditional mayor making meeting to turn into a political row.
“I was shaking with anger and annoyance,” the new mayor said. “It was totally out of the code of conduct as a councillor.”
This is because Lib Dem leader Cllr Malcolm Gaskill interrupted the order of the evening to make a damning speech, likened to ‘gutter politics’ by Cllr Kennedy, before announcing that he and his fellow Lib Dem members would not play any further part in the meeting.
They refused to vote in favour of Cllr Kennedy or his deputy mayor Cllr Gina Lewis, being elected.
This was due to a suspension of mayoral convention which was passed at last year’s mayor making that will in effect, prevent a Liberal Democrat member from becoming mayor until after 2019 – the year of the next local election.
Cllr Gaskill said: “The original mayoral convention stated that the incoming mayor would be the member of the Council with the most seniority as a Council member who had not yet fulfilled the role.
“The Mayoral convention was suspended last year for a period of three years up to and including 2019, coincidently the date of the next local elections.
“The reason given for this action was to enable the new town clerk, Mark Bailey to become acquainted with the traditional rules regulations and process which surround the office of mayor.
“It was claimed Mr Bailey would need an experienced mayor and deputy to guide him and advise him. Mr Bailey is a highly qualified professional who has worked in and around local government for most of his career. To suggest it will take three years for him to find out what the mayor of Winsford does throughout the year is an insult to his intelligence and professionalism and questions Mr Bailey’s ability to speedily take on new tasks.
“This rule change was engineered by the senior members of the Labour group to keep Liberal Democrat councillors out of the office of mayor until 2019. It has fooled nobody. It makes the Labour party look petty and mean-spirited and it demeans the office of mayor.
Cllr Kennedy could not hold back his anger at the speech, and made his thoughts known during his acceptance speech as many 10 times.
At the end of his speech he apologised to the members of the public at the meeting saying: “I’m sorry if I started off a bit trembly, but I tend to get like that when I’m fuming.”
Cllr Kennedy later told the Guardian that it ‘lowered the tone of the night’.
Cllr Kennedy said: “I feel it was a very, very sad thing to do. It spoilt the occasion and that was his aim. It was gutter politics of a bygone era that he has brought back. It lowered the whole tone of the night and it was very sad. It had no reflection on myself, the outgoing mayor, the town clerk or anybody else, but actually reflected more on Cllr Gaskill.”