Meet Beverley's youngest ever mayor, who at just 24 has more political experience than many

At just 24, Tom Astell was elected as the youngest mayor in Beverley’s history. But with the country plunged into crisis by coronavirus, he tells Geraldine Scott how becoming the town’s 417th mayor will be far different than he expected.

When Tom Astell was named as Beverley’s youngest ever mayor earlier this month, it may have come as a surprise to some.

The position could be associated with someone of greater years.

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But do not let his age fool you, as 24-year-old Mr Astell has more politics experience than many entering Parliament for the first time – and he has even spoken at the House of Commons’ despatch box.

Tom Astell, who is the mayor of Beverley. Pictured at his front door in Beverley.Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Mr Astell, who is thought to be the youngest mayor in the town’s history, became a member of the East Riding Youth Assembly at 10 and was elected to the UK Youth Parliament at 14.

And learning from his father, a fellow Beverley councillor, democracy is in his blood.

“Although I’m one of the younger town councillors, I’m also one of the more experienced because after elections in 2019 10 out of 14 members were new,” Mr Astell, who lives in Beverley with his partner and consort Alex Moor.

“I’ve also got a lot of support in the community and my youth on my side.

Tom Astell, who is the mayor of Beverley. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“My dad was in politics and I’ve been involved all my life, I wanted to give back to my community.”

Both father, Peter, who has served two terms as the town’s mayor himself, and son hit the headlines last year when they quit Labour to join the Liberal Democrats.

At the time Peter Astell said the party no longer reflected the values he had held dear for decades.

His son said: “The local Liberal Democrats campaign for a better Beverley by working hard all year round, not just at election times.”

Tom Astell, who is the mayor of Beverley. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

But Mr Astell, who is also a full-time store manager for bakery chain Cooplands in Hull, was now keen to hit out on his own and make his own mark.

“I want to be a proactive mayor, helping the community recover from the coronavirus crisis,” he said.

One of the events cancelled in the town due to coronavirus is the Pride festival, which was due to be staged in Beverley for the first time this year, with Mr Astell leading its organisation.

In September last year while serving as deputy mayor, Mr Astell was a victim of homophobic abuse, which he reported to the police.

Tom Astell, who is the mayor of Beverley. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

At the time he said “homophobia is not acceptable in whatever form it takes”.

And while promoting Pride he said he wanted to change misconceptions about Beverley as “a very conservative-minded place and not very outward-looking”.

He said: “In fact it’s a really diverse town with a strong LGBTQ community.”

And in his new role, he said: “I plan to celebrate the diversity of our town, highlighting the different communities of our town.”

But he acknowledged much of his time would be taken up with helping Beverley recover from coronavirus.

“The over-arching aim of this year is to maintain a high profile supporting residents and our communities through the current crisis which is affecting everything we hold dear.

“The local economy has to recover and I, along with other councillors, will be looking for ways to support businesses during this difficult time.”

Councillors cast their votes in the mayoral election from home, in a ceremony which the mayor said was “surreal”.

“In some ways it was sad that we couldn’t hold the ceremony in the Guildhall,” he said.

“It was very surreal being sat in my robes in my sitting room being elected. I’m the first to have been elected that way and hopefully I’ll be the last.”

And he said it was “daunting” to take on the job at a time when coronavirus gripped the nation.

“It’s something we can’t get away from, it’s going to be a tough year,” he said.

“The coronavirus crisis is something that’s going to overshadow everyone’s lives and will likely define the coming year.

“It also looks like we’re heading into the sharpest recession in living memory as a result.

“But Beverley has been here before and we will get through it because the town has a strong resolve.”

Mr Astell said that despite the impact of coronavirus, he was encouraged to see people in Beverley coming together.

The mayor said: “It’s going to be different but these circumstances inspire us to do what really matters.

“People are coming together and supporting neighbours and friends.

“We can forge a better future for the town after this, that’s what matters to me.”

Already he had spoken about moving events online.

“I was speaking to the town clerk and said I wanted to do more things virtually, like fundraising and community work,” he said.

“That’s all about driving the town forward.

“I want us to think about how we can do things differently.”

He added: “I have plans to change the mayoralty for the future, with a full Mayor’s Awards evening planned for when restrictions are lifted.

“I also plan on continuing to fundraise through virtual means, with quizzes race nights and other social events.

“I have already started the ball rolling for a Mayor’s Cadet with support of the local cadet branches, which will become an annual tradition.”

Mr Astell added that even during the crisis, “I think that people will appreciate a little bit of normality”.