Harrogate Mayor must have more power and funding, says Lib Dem

Harrogate council

Harrogate council

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​The Mayor's role in Harrogate is suffering from a lack of funding and diminished responsibilities and functions, according to a Lib Dem councillor.

Coun Clare Skardon (Lib Dem) has called for a working group of the council to examine the community value, functions and future funding of the Mayoralty.

At present, the Mayor represents Harrogate Borough on ceremonial occasions, welcoming international visitors and attending community events and groups.

However, Coun Skardon believes the potential importance of the role to the Harrogate community and economy are being restricted by a recent lack of funding.

She said: "There is only a limited amount of funding for the Mayor's role. It's been cut so much over the years and they only get around £12,000 now.

"I think now's a good time to review its importance and function to the community, particularly with the devolution debate coming up.

"With the move to the new offices, there will be nowhere for the Mayor's parlour. Even the mayor making ceremony has decreased over the years.

"It used to involve a lot more of the community. Now, there is too much emphasis on fundraising but there is much bigger role that the Mayor can play."

Coun Skardon has also raised concerns that the Mayor's power are too limited and that the role has become 'too focussed' on fundraising responsibilities.

The current Mayor of Harrogate, Coun Nigel Simms, admitted that the role was poorly funded but explained the role has always been 'purely ceremonial'.

He said: "It's not well funded. You do know what you're getting in to when you decide to take it on but it could do with more funding.

"The role doesn't carry any particular powers. If that's how she wants the role to be that's fine but it can't be at the moment, there would have to be a constitution change.

"There will be no mayor's parlour and there won't be any council chambers in the new offices. Whether that's a good or bad thing I will leave for others to decide.

"As far as fundraising goes, it's up to the Mayor on how much they do. They don't have to do any fundraising but I choose to and most Mayors do."

A new Mayor of Harrogate is set to be appointed in May this year and Coun Skardon believes they should play a more pivotal role in Harrogate's economy.

She said: "The Mayor has a great opportunity to form links with businesses. We have got an international centre with continues to attract big companies.

"Having those businesses forge links with the Mayor could encourage them to come back again. There's definitely an economic value that's being missed out on.

"The ideal situation though is to have somewhere in the new offices where the Mayor can sit and greet people in an official capacity."

Coun Simms explained that it was the leader of the council's role to talk to businesses and any increased power could make the Mayor's role political.

He said: "My only official duty is when there is a full council meeting I am the chairman. It's the only involvement, you have to be apolitical.

"I have to be honest, it would be nice to have some more power as mayor but then it could become political."