Mayor faces snub after election row

A NEW town mayor accused of "political sabotage" has been dealt a blow after fellow councillors vowed to boycott high-profile events because of the controversial way her deputy was appointed.

A NEW town mayor accused of "political sabotage" has been dealt a blow after fellow councillors vowed to boycott high-profile events because of the controversial way her deputy was appointed.

Just weeks after taking her seat of office, new Sudbury mayor Lesley Ford-Platt is facing a crisis after the town council's five-strong Conservative group vowed to boycott any event she organises in the coming year - a move she has described as "shameful".

The rift among the ranks of the town council was sparked last month at the annual mayor-making ceremony, when Lib Dem Mrs Ford-Platt was accused by the Conservative group of "politically sabotaging" Tory councillor Peter Goodchild's chance of becoming her deputy.

Just minutes before Mr Goodchild was due to receive his coveted chains of office councillor Andy Welsh proposed fellow Lib Dem Nigel Bennett for the role.

After a split six-all vote, the casting vote went to the new mayor who voted in favour of her Lib Dem colleague, leaving Mr Goodchild feeling "embarrassed and angry" in front of a 40-strong crowd that included his proud wife Valerie.

The Conservative group claims Mrs Ford-Platt had agreed to back Mr Goodchild in return for them backing her appointment as mayor, and says she went back on her word - an accusation she strongly denies.

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Now, the furious Tory group has decided to boycott any event organised by the mayor, except those where their civic responsibilities demand them to attend.

Conservative councillor Peter Beer said: "We still believe an agreement was broken, the new mayor was informed a year ago that we would be putting forward Mr Goodchild as deputy and we were led to believe she would be supporting him.

"We are certainly not going to take part in anything that is personal to her - she chose this course of action and she will have to live with it."

The matter was discussed at a heated town council meeting this week and it was hoped bridges could be built between the two parties but the situation remained hostile.

Mr Beer was told to "mind his manners" by the mayor after he branded her comments "rubbish", Labour councillor Nick Irwin stormed out of the meeting in disgust and Lib Dem Albert Pearce told the new mayor he "didn't believe a word" of her explanation.

Mrs Ford-Platt has now labelled the Conservative boycott "shameful". She said: "To the critics who think I voted politically, I can state quite categorically that I did not do so.

"The reasons for my decision to vote for Nigel Bennett is because of his willingness and ability to serve the people of this town. I had to make a decision for the benefit of this town, which is precisely what I did.

"For some of you to say you will boycott events which are personal to myself as mayor is shameful. The mayor is here to honour and support the people of the town, so if you decide to snub the mayor you are in fact snubbing the very people who elected you and I think that is appalling."

The Conservative group does now accept that Mr Welsh and Mr Bennett may never have been made aware of the agreement, as they have always claimed.

Mr Welsh said: "What happened was simply a total breakdown in communication and we must never let something like this happen again, but there is no way this was a deliberate attempt to cause embarrassment. As far as the legendary agreement is concerned I would like to hear the person who told us to come forward and say so, the silence is deafening because we were never made aware of any agreement."

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