Action on disorder in resort
THE role of mayor of Suffolk’s most affluent borough should be reviewed, it was claimed last night – after it emerged the service ran 12% over budget last year.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council has staunchly defended the ceremonial position which last year cost its taxpayers almost �124,000 – more than �13,000 above the original �110,000 budget.
The council claimed the impact of the mayoralty on civic life and sense of community it engenders could not be “over estimated”, but critics said the mayoralty was a service and a cost to the taxpayer and its future should be reviewed as such.
David Nettleton, Independent borough councillor, said while borough mayors did a lot of good work the ceremonial title should not be immune from cost-cutting at a time of austerity and belt-tightening.
“Its future should be considered,” he said. “There should be no sacred cows. It should be looked at.”
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He questioned whether the borough needed a mayor given the fact Haverhill already had one and Bury St Edmunds could have one – as it has in previous years – if it wished.
He said military parades and other civic events were not dependent on having a mayor present.
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Current borough mayor Ian Houlder said: “There’s always going to be detractors and I don’t see why they shouldn’t question it. But I think it is really good value.”
He said the mayoralty was about the borough having a non-political figurehead who could carry out a vast range of engagements from going into a school to hosting Her Majesty The Queen.
“When you see how people respond to it you realise that without it we would be a much poorer area without it.”
A spokeswoman for the council said: “The value of the mayoralty cannot be over estimated. The rich civic life of the borough gives it a profile that attracts visitors and investment; and our pride in it strengthens our sense of community. It is managed with a minimum of staff and a maximum of good will, with support from many volunteers and sponsors.
“The majority of engagements have a minimal cost. It is the large scale events that have a big impact on budgets.
“Last year we had the honour of welcoming Her Majesty the Queen for Maundy Thursday, welcome home parades and medal presentations, and sadly, military funerals. In these more austere times we will make sure we live within our means, while we continue to promote the borough nationally, regionally and locally.”