COMMUNITY stalwarts are set to take centre stage in Middlewich with the chance to become mayor.

Middlewich Town Council unanimously voted to change the role of the civic mayor to an apolitical one – with residents set to choose who they want to represent them from next May.

The role had previously been fulfilled by a town councillor, but Cllr Rachel Pendleton, Labour, told members on Monday night that it is ‘a new council and a fresh start’ following this month’s election.

She said: “We were all elected to serve the people of Middlewich as councillors, and we are grateful for the trust placed in us.

“But the mayor of Middlewich should be a truly apolitical role, that all residents in our town can be proud of.

Winsford Guardian:

“The new people’s mayor will fulfil ceremonial duties but that will not be the limit of their role.

“We want the position to be used to achieve positive change for our town, by championing local groups’ causes and projects.”

Cllr Pendleton was speaking after being appointed as chairman of Middlewich Town Council for 2019-20 – fulfilling the duties previously held by the town mayor during council meetings.

Town councillors are set to choose the town mayor for this year in an effort to speed up the process, but Cllr Pendleton promised that residents will take on the duty of choosing their mayor in future.

“This is an important change and we need to make sure that we get it right,” she added.

While the move was supported by the new council, outgoing mayor Bill Walmsley, Middlewich First, expressed his sadness at the rule change.

In his final speech as town mayor, he said: “I am saddened by the fact that the town will now break with tradition and no longer have a town councillor elected to the position of mayor.

Winsford Guardian:

“I believe that ever since the mayoral chain was presented to Middlewich Urban District Council in 1897, the mayoral chain has been worn by an elected councillor as mayor.

“It is regrettable that the town will not be represented within the borough until a suitable candidate has been chosen by the residents of Middlewich.

“I have spent many hours over the past year ensuring that Middlewich is represented and that friendships with mayors and residents in surrounding towns are made and links with other communities established – so I sincerely hope that, eventually, these links can be re-forged.”

Cllr Pendleton was nominated for the position of chairman by Cllr Helen Watkinson, Labour, who was full of praise for her party colleague.

READ > Town councillors mark 'a new beginning'

She said: “Rachel has a strong belief in social justice and is a firm supporter in the rights of people to take part in the decisions that affect their lives.

“As chairman she will ensure contributions from the public will be heard and respected at these meetings.

“Rachel is modest – probably to her fault – but is hardworking, compassionate and fair. A truly perfect fit as chairman of our town council.”

Meanwhile, Labour Cllr Russell Watkinson was elected as vice-chairman for 2019-20.