Louth Town Council vote to change mayoral election system

Louth Mayor Coun Jill Makinson-Sanders
Louth Mayor Coun Jill Makinson-Sanders

The way Louth’s mayor is elected is set to change for the first time in many years after councillors voted in favour of new proposals during a heated debate on Tuesday night.

At the full Louth Town Council meeting at the Session’s House councillors heard a proposal by current mayor Coun Jill Makinson-Sanders that would see the future mayor, also known as the chairman of the council, spend a year as deputy before stepping up to the full role.

At present a somewhat unusual council system sees the mayor step straight up to the role, spending the subsequent year as deputy in order to assist the new mayor.

Her proposal was carried, but only after fervent discussion during what became a lengthy item on the agenda.

“It’s normal that you are vice chairman before you are the chairman, in most organisations that’s how it goes,” said Coun Laura Stephenson.

But Coun George Horton, of Louth’s St Michael’s ward, was eager for change. “In my opinion sometimes people are reluctant to change. Change is about changing for the better,” he said.

He added that becoming the deputy after being mayor was ‘deflating’.

“I could not find any authority that does the procedure that we do,” he said.

“I personally believe that if this council adopted this system it would be a change for the better.”

But Coun Trevor Marris, twice a former mayor himself, disagreed. “Going straight in as mayor, within two or three weeks you get the gist of it,” he said.

“It’s so much simpler, nowhere else is like Louth so why should we be there same as everyone else?”

“It works, so why mend it?”

Coun Eileen Ballard, mayor in 1997 and 2005, said it was an ‘insult’ to past mayors to suggest the change was needed.

“Nobody is frightened of change, there has been no problem and it’s almost an insult, it’s always worked,” she said.

Coun David Wing said Coun Horton ‘had the right idea’ but Coun Margaret Ottaway said she ‘couldn’t see the point’ in the change.

But Coun Stephenson added: “Just because something has happened for a long time it doesn’t make it right. We would not have got rid of slavery!”

“If I were going to be mayor I would like to know about it in advance to prepare myself,” responded Coun Andrew Leonard, agreeing with the proposed change.

“If I did it I would want to be available, it’s having that foresight and knowledge to do it.”

Coun Fran Treanor, mayor in 2008, said he didn’t see ‘any advantage whatsoever’ in what was being proposed.

Another former mayor and present deputy mayor under the current system, Coun Brian Burnett, saw the merits in both sides of the argument.

“But I do see it being a bit of a non-event being deputy mayor after being the mayor,” he said.

Coun Ballard reiterated that past mayors under the current system had done ‘a good job’.

“They have done the job very well indeed, this is not a slur on any previous mayor,” responded Coun Horton.

The debate was put to the vote and councillors voted by 11 votes to six to change to the new system, which will see the mayor spend a year as deputy before becoming mayor.

However it is not yet clear how this will work this year with a new mayor due in May, and the current deputy mayor Brian Burnett having fulfilled the role in 2011/12.

What do you make of the change? Do you think the mayor should spend a year as deputy in order to learn the role? Comment on this story using the comment box below, or email sam.kinnaird@jpress.co.uk.