Councillors boycott mayor ceremony

A MAYOR-making ceremony in a coastal Essex town was overshadowed by in-fighting as a group of councillors boycotted the event.

Elliot Furniss

A MAYOR-making ceremony in a coastal Essex town was overshadowed by in-fighting as a group of councillors boycotted the event.

Harwich Town Council's Labour members stayed away from the ceremony yesterday morning that saw David Rutson, of the Community Representative Party, elected as mayor.

Speaking before the event, Labour councillor Gary Calver said the row dated back several months to a political disagreement that saw Mr Rutson fail to back a package of measures put to Tendring District Council aimed at enhancing the town.

He said: “I fully respect the ceremony of mayor making but I cannot bring myself to endorse this particular mayor.”

He and fellow labour representatives Les Double, Andy Morrison and Lawrie Payne were all absent from the 1912 Centre as Mr Rutson was sworn in along with new deputy mayor John Brown.

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Mr Double said: “I would have loved to have been there, but myself and my colleagues are not hypocrites. We didn't feel able to support a man who doesn't support a plan to improve the town.”

During his speech endorsing Mr Rutson, council leader Steven Henderson, also of the Community Representative Party, said the rest of the council would make a concerted effort to work together.

He said: “Missing Labour councillors decided to boycott today - so what? We can rise above their bitterness that they were almost wiped out at the last election.”

He said he led a “talented team” who would ignore the pettiness that had split the council and work together for a better Harwich.

He added: “Most of us are getting to the end of our patience and if we have to go it alone, then so be it.”

After a short meeting at the 1912 Centre, the party then moved on to St Nicholas' Church for a special mayor making service.

The morning concluded with the traditional kitchel throwing ceremony, which saw dozens of local youngsters gather outside the Guildhall to catch buns thrown from the windows by the new mayoral team.

Mr Ruston said: “It's a pleasure for me to be your new mayor for the next year. For five years I have worked tirelessly for the people of Harwich.”

He announced that the Essex Air Ambulance, the RNLI, the fund for a new clock at St Nicholas' Church, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the local prostate cancer support group were her chosen charities for the year ahead and would profit from the many events set to be held.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Rutson said: “It's their choice. If they show themselves up and disgrace themselves it's their problem, not mine. We should be working together as a unit. At the end of the day, it lets your own group down if you act like 10-year-olds.”

Kitchel throwing

§ Kitchels are sweet currant cakes.

§ Their name is thought to have come from a cake first cooked in Suffolk called a God's kitchel, made for visiting children to receive from their Godparents at Christmas

§ In 1905 a guide book described kitchel throwing as a “curious custom, hundreds of years old”, and thought the cakes were called “catch all”.

§ Until 1949, December 21 marked the beginning of the season for giving kitchels - but it became the custom for the newly-elected mayor to shower his blessings on the children from the window.

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