Changes to Lord Mayor of York position may "harm" its standing

Changes have been proposed to the position of Lord Mayor that a senior councillor said will “harm” its standing to save £10,000.

York's Lord Mayor is second only to the Lord Mayor of London in precedence, according to the City of York Council’s website.

Despite this, money-saving measures have been proposed by the Labour-run council including making the Lord Mayor pay for engagements they are invited to outside of York.

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Previously, the Lord Mayor would have residency at Mansion House, but not under the proposed changes.

Chris Cullwick, Lord Mayor of YorkChris Cullwick, Lord Mayor of York
Chris Cullwick, Lord Mayor of York

The Lord Mayor will also be asked to increase their use of public transport rather than use a private car.

Coun Chris Steward, Conservative group leader on the City of York Council, said: “We were extremely surprised and disappointed to see Labour's sudden plans to downgrade the role of Lord Mayor.

“This has been done with no cross-party involvement whatsoever, which is totally wrong given the non-political role of the Lord Mayor and the importance of the role.

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“York has had a Lord Mayor for hundreds of years and it is the most important role outside London.”

It is also proposed that going forward the number of occasions the historic sword and mace are required will be reduced to save staffing and security costs and potential damage to the regalia.

Furthermore, the original 1612 chains will only be won at the annual council meeting, Remembrance Sunday and royal visits.

While the Lord Mayor’s annual special responsibility allowance will remain at £4,960, the personal allowance of £7,380 split with its Sheriff will be reduced by £5,000.

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Coun Steward added: “Labour is proposing to save £10,000 from their changes to the role of Lord Mayor, which will clearly harm the role.

“This amount is less than they give to one of their councillors simply for chairing one committee of the council.”

Another move that Coun Steward called “dictatorial” was making it obligatory that the Lord Mayor’s charity donations go to the York Community Fund.

“It is wrong and bizarrely dictatorial that Labour will decide who the Lord Mayor's charity should be,” Coun Steward said.

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“Lord Mayors have always picked their own charity and often a number.

The Labour leader picking the charity will lessen the unique nature of the Lord Mayor's year and will also no doubt reduce the amount of money raised, given that the Lord Mayor will pick one or more charities that they are passionate about and will supply volunteers from within the charities."

Labour’s Coun Katie Lomas said: “This report contains a number of common sense measures to bring the civic office up to date and ensure its budget reflects the financial realities the Conservative government is inflicting on local councils up and down the country.

“The Lord Mayor and Sheriff will still be able to operate in a way befitting of civic heads of our city but the amount of budget allocated for hospitality and entertaining will have to fall.

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“We think residents will expect all areas of council spending to play their part in responding to the real terms decline in funding the council has been experiencing for years, especially in discretionary service areas like this one.”

The current Lord Mayor is Liberal Democrat Coun Chris Cullwick, but it will shortly be Labour’s turn to hold the position.

A person has been chosen by the Labour Party and will be announced by the council leader Coun Claire Douglas on February 22 at the full council meeting.

The proposed changes would come in from May 2024.

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