Call to spend £25,000 on ceremonial robes ‘on agenda in error’

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The leader of a North Yorkshire council has stepped in and rejected officer proposals for £25,000 to be spent on new ceremonial robes for councillors.

Opposition councillors on Harrogate Borough Council had raised concerns about proposals to earmark £25,000 to be spent on new ceremonial robes for members. However, last night Coun Richard Cooper, council leader, said the proposals had appeared on papers for a meeting of the authority’s cabinet in error.

He said he had requested they were removed from the papers before the meeting earlier this month, but because of an administrative error this had not occurred.

Coun Cooper said: “I had already asked for this item to be removed from the proposed uses of business unit reserves.

“In fact I have gone further and when the current robes reach the end of their life there will be no replacements except for the Mayoral robes. Due to an officer oversight, the cabinet papers were printed with the original proposals, rather than containing the amendments.

“Officers are quite at liberty to put forward whatever proposals they wish. As councillors we are at liberty to approve or decline them. In this case I chose to remove that item – and another one pertaining to refurbishment of seating in the council chamber – and instructed officers to do so prior to the meeting.

“I informed my cabinet colleagues and other councillors that this did not form part of the proposals prior to the cabinet meeting and we voted as such.”

Coun Helen Flynn, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said prior to learning about the council leader’s intervention: “We feel that spending £25,000 on robes for district councillors is out of step with the financial hardship being felt by people across the district.

“In our view it would be financially irresponsible to put it mildly for any councillor to ask local taxpayers to fork out thousands of pounds for ceremonial robes.”

She said she had only rarely worn her robes at events including the annual general meeting.