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Mayor’s Position Locked Down for an Extra Year, Mayor Making Cancelled

Published on: 28 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 30 Apr, 2020

Mayor Richard Billington at the Guildhall in the 2019 mayor making ceremony making his first address as mayor.

by Martin Giles

For the first time since 1362, when Guildford appointed its first mayor, there will be no “Mayor Making” ceremony at the Guildhall. The formality has been cancelled because of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Due to the pandemic, the government recently changed the law to allow councils to not only hold “virtual meetings”, but also to dispense with an annual meeting this year. The meeting, normally held in May, deals with the election of the mayor and deputy mayor for the forthcoming municipal year, which begins then and runs until the next annual meeting the following May.

Honorary Remembrancer Matthew Alexander told The Dragon NEWS: “It is not the first time a Mayor of Guildford will have served for more than one year. It was a fairly common practice until 1973, when the late Cllr Bill Bellerby completed a two-year term. After the newly-constituted Guildford Borough Council was granted its present charter in that year, the Mayors have been appointed only for one year at a time.

“But until now I can find no recorded instance of the annual Mayor Making ceremony actually being cancelled. Mayor Makings seem to have taken place during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 and 1919, when Cllr William Taverner was elected for the two years. Even during the various outbreaks of plague in the 16th- and 17th-centuries Mayors were elected.”

Mr Alexander added: “So we can say that this is certainly an unusual measure – but we live in unusual times.”

Responding to the history Mayor Billington said: “This is most interesting. I have a feeling I will be thinking of Mayor Taverner next week when we have a virtual council meeting.”

The borough council said that after discussions with our present Mayor (Cllr Richard Billington) and his Deputy (Cllr Marsha Moseley), the Deputy Mayor-elect (Cllr Dennis Booth), and the political group leaders on the council, the Mayor Making meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 13 will not be held.

Deputy Mayor Marsha Moseley and Mayor Richard Billington who will continue in the ceremonial roles for an additional year – Photo GBC

This means Cllrs Billington and Moseley will continue as Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Guildford until May 2021.

The council could hold a virtual meeting, the lockdown would mean the new Mayor and Deputy Mayor would be unable to attend the many community events and civic engagements they would normally attend and that was felt unfair.

This would also have a detrimental impact on fundraising for the new Mayor’s charities and would also prevent the new Deputy Mayor from gaining a practical understanding of the mayoral role before he was scheduled to become Mayor in May 2021.

Cllr Richard Billington

Reflecting on the situation Mayor Billington said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as Mayor and look forward to supporting and helping our communities and charities for another year. I have seen first-hand how difficult it has been for everyone because of the present situation, but it has also been heart-warming to see how community spirit is flourishing throughout our borough. Our local charities will need our support more than ever and I look forward to helping with that in whatever way I can”.

“I am delighted to announce that over my 2019-20 mayoral year we have raised more than £28,000 and I would like to thank all of those who have supported the mayor’s charities this year. The Royal Surrey County Hospital Charity, The Prostate Project and The Mayor of Guildford’s Local Distress Fund will all benefit from the generosity and kindness of you all.”

During the Mayor’s 2020-21 year his focus will be to support any local charities hit hard due to the Coronavirus.

Deputy Mayor Ms Moseley said: “We have seen an incredible response and effort from our communities here in Guildford which has been amazing to see. Our residents have rallied together and shown fantastic community spirit to help one another. I am so proud to see the response that the key workers and people of Guildford have given during this pandemic, keeping us safe and healthy.

“I am excited to become Mayor in 2021 and carry on the terrific work that the Mayor and his predecessors have done.”

Colin Stokes

Dr Colin Stokes MBE, co-founder of The Prostate Project, said: “We were amazed at the diversity of fundraising activity during the year and were bowled over by the sum raised. This will make a big contribution to the Prostate Project activities.

“Giving men a better chance of beating prostate cancer remains essential. Even in the middle of a Covid virus outbreak, men will still need our continued efforts. This is so true of the whole of the Royal Surrey County hospital, as well. They are in need of ongoing support and I am sure are just as excited as we are at the input from Richard, his wife and all his team. Thank you so very much.”

The Community Foundation has launched a Coronavirus Response Fund where donations help support local charities and voluntary organisations to assist Surrey’s most vulnerable people. For more information, visit: www.cfsurrey.org.uk/surreycoronavirusresponsefund/

Other opportunities to support good local causes in Guildford is through the Guildford Community Lottery. The lottery allows good local organisations such as schools, sports clubs and charities to generate money through a lottery system. Causes signed up to the lottery send their supporters to buy tickets from their own page and the organisation will receive 50 per cent of all ticket sales.

For more information, visit: www.guildfordlottery.org/

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