WREXHAM’s new deputy mayor has been challenged not to take extra money for performing the role, days after saying the mayoral office was “damn good value” for taxpayers.
Smithfield councillor Keith Gregory reacted to comments by new deputy mayor, Barbara Roxburgh, who took up the role on Tuesday night.
In a staunch defence of the post, Cllr Roxburgh said the mayoral office was “damn good value for money”.
Last year deputy mayor Cllr Alan Edwards received a £16,625 salary. That figure is set to fall to £16,000 for Cllr Roxburgh in 2014-15.
The basic allowance for members is £13,300.
Ahead of taking the deputy position, Cllr Roxburgh said: “I am a traditionalist and I think it is one of the traditions that keeps the county borough together. People don’t see the time it takes and the effort that goes into it.”
But yesterday Cllr Gregory said: “If she’s that much of a traditionalist then why don’t we go back to having an unpaid mayor? It is an utter disgrace that, at a time when public services are being cut back, the role of mayor remains unaffected. Sooner or later this council must start listening to the people.”
Former Caia Park community councillor Mike Allum, 68, of Llys David Lord, said he thought Wrexham could not afford to pay for the mayor’s office.
“We are seeing cuts to council jobs and services. We don’t have the finances for a mayor,” he said. “The money spent on the mayor’s office could be used to help alleviate the plight of ordinary families facing financial hardship in these difficult economic times. I think that would be more important.
“In terms of attracting business to the area, Wrexham Council already has a good team with the likes of the chief executive and council leader. We don’t need to have a mayor as well.”
Mr Allum said his views over the role of the mayor’s office were not personal and not an attack on anyone individually.
“I just don’t think we can afford it. There are better things to spend council tax payers’ money on,” he added.
Gwersyllt councillor Arfon Jones said: “What we need is a grassroots referendum to show the coalition how out of touch they are with public opinion in Wrexham.”
Cllr Edwards was appointed mayor in a ceremony on Tuesday, replacing outgoing mayor Cllr I. David Bithell. Cllr Edwards’ wife Glenys will be mayoress.
In his inaugural speech to councillors and members of the public, Cllr Edwards said: “The next year will be a difficult and challenging year for the council and the people of Wrexham but I hope mine and Glenys’ visits can bring a small ray of sunshine.”
Cllr Bithell attended 535 official engagements across the county as mayor.Deputy mayor Cllr Edwards was present in an official capacity at 40 events over the year.
Currently, the equivalent of 2.6 full time staff are employed in the mayoralty, comprising a full-time attendee and three part-time civic support staff.
Since Wrexham Council was formed in 1996, the allowance for the position of mayor was issued directly by the council, with a separate civic allowance covering hospitality handled by the mayoral office.
In 2012, the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales introduced the civic salary, inclusive of the basic salary paid to all elected members in place of the personal allowance.
In his year as mayor, Cllr Bithell received a £21,375 civic salary, with the basic allowance for members being £13,175 last year.
In response to fresh calls from Wrexham Independent Group leader, Cllr David A. Bithell, to cut £50,000 from the mayor’s budget, Wrexham Council leader Cllr Neil Rogers said: “Cllr Bithell was informed by the lead member for policy, finance, performance and governance, Cllr Malcolm King, at the last meeting of the executive board that all service areas will be reviewed and a report will go to the June executive board.
“I have also challenged members several times over the last 12 months to submit a motion to council to debate the questions they have raised about the mayoralty but to date they have refused to do so.”