Wrexham mayoral role defended as being 'damn good value'

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Leader Live)

THE WOMAN who will take the chains as Wrexham’s deputy mayor tonight has launched a staunch defence of the role in the face of fresh calls to cut the money spent on the mayoral office.

Cllr Barbara Roxburgh will be confirmed as Deputy Mayor of Wrexham for 2014-15 at the Guildhall today, taking over from Cllr Alan Edwards, who will step into outgoing mayor Cllr I. David Bithell’s shoes.

According to self-confessed “traditionalist” Cllr Roxburgh, the importance of the mayor should not be underestimated. On the eve of her official appointment into the role with Wrexham Council she said the mayor was “damn good value”.

She said: “I am a traditionalist and I think it is one of the traditions that keeps the county borough together.

“I have lived in Wrexham all my life, I was born here and schooled here and I respect greatly the role of the mayor. I feel honoured to be named deputy mayor.

“I take umbrage at people saying it costs this and that. It is damn good value and it doesn’t really cost that much in the scheme of things.

“People don’t see the time it takes and the effort that goes into it.”

Wrexham Independent Group unsuccessfully led calls for a £50,000 cut to the £138,000 mayoral budget for 2014-15 at a February meeting.

But according to the leader of the group, Cllr David A. Bithell, “serious consideration” should be made to their proposal as the council continues with more savage cuts proposed for 2015-16.

He said: “Given the concern and demise of public services, which have been cut by the ruling Labour and Democratic Independent alliance, which includes Plas Madoc, bus services and grass cutting, serious consideration needs to be made to reduce the costs of the mayor we proposed in February.”

Cllr Bithell added: “When public services are being reduced, people quite rightly need to understand why civic roles are continuing while the services they pay council tax for are being cut.”

At an executive board meeting last Tuesday, the lead member for policy, finance, performance and governance, Cllr Malcolm King, said potential cuts in the mayoral budget would be detailed in a future report.

Executive board members voted to approve the cuts already identified, including savings on the closure of Bersham Heritage Centre to prune £58,000, the removal of the school library service and a further cut of £68,000 from the school music service across the county.

Also included was a proposal to put domiciliary care at Plas Yn Rhos care home out to tender, as well as retendering all domiciliary care contracts which currently expire in March 2015. It is hoped these actions will save the council £650,000.

But a discussion on a further cut of £200,000 to the grounds maintenance budget, covering grass cutting across the county, was deferred until a later meeting.

Outgoing mayor Cllr I. David Bithell – who attended 535 official engagements during his year as mayor, usually accompanied by wife and mayoress Virginia – said it was important for the council to provide “value for money” for taxpayers.

He said: “The past 12 months I have had a wonderful time. We have met some incredible people and had an insight into the amazing work done by volunteers and fundraisers in Wrexham. Every area is being looked at and it is only right that everything should be checked out to make sure we are getting the best value for money for the public.”

Cllr Bithell wished Cllr Edwards and his wife well in their new roles.

Cllr Neil Rogers, leader of Wrexham Council, 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.”

See full story in the Leader

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