Outgoing Harrogate Mayor Bernard reflects on year in office

Former Harrogate Mayor Coun Anne Jones presents Coun Bernard Bateman with the chains of office at last year's mayor making ceremony.
Former Harrogate Mayor Coun Anne Jones presents Coun Bernard Bateman with the chains of office at last year's mayor making ceremony.

It's been a busy year for Councillor Bernard Bateman.

A week ahead of handing over the mayoral reins, Coun Bateman still has 16 events penned in his diary to attend as Mayor of Harrogate Borough Council.

It's a hectic end to a year which will culminate on May 20 at the annual mayor making ceremony, when the incoming Coun Stuart Martin will officially take over the duties and regalia that come with the role.

New mayor and deputy named for Harrogate
Reflecting on his own time in the position, Coun Bateman said it's been a frantic - but "very enjoyable" - year.

"I think it's the one of the busiest mayoralties in Yorkshire," Coun Bateman said of the district he has served.

At a guess, he says he has attended about 700 events since taking over the role in May 2018, the majority of them with wife Linda.

It was a year with many highlights he said - among his favourite part of the role has been travelling to primary schools around the district to represent the council.

"It's been a very enjoyable year, I've met a lot of nice people," he said.

New Harrogate mayor to follow in family footsteps
Coun Bateman said another positive aspect of the office was "being able to make a difference" to local community groups by helping direct them towards potential council funding for their work.

He and wife Linda are also members and keen followers of Harrogate Town FC and have attended matches religiously this season.

Despite the range of commitments, Coun Bateman said he still had a desire to see the mayoralty accessed by the smaller communities around the district - saying he "absolutely" encouraged community members to pick up the phone and invite the mayor to their events.

"If anything, it's not used enough," he said of the office.

"You tend to see the rural, district councils don't use the mayor as much.

"You're there as their servant around the district."

The role of mayor of Harrogate is the latest position he has held in a tenure in local politics which stretches back over two decades, having chaired North Yorkshire County Council and Mayor of Ripon in that time.

Coun Bateman said he knew his successor, Ripon's Coun Martin, would uphold the lofty standards that come with the office.

"I think he'll be very good. I've been involved with him for a good 20 years plus, and he works very hard, especially with the local charities," he said.

Despite relinquishing the role, Coun Bateman has no plans to slow down on his work around the district.

He still holds positions on a variety of important council bodies, including the overview and scrutiny and planning committees.

He's also the North Yorkshire chairman of the Army Benevolent Fund, which he supported as his charity of choice during his mayoral year alongside Candlelighters, and has plans for a busy year helping raise funds for the organisations which helps veterans and their families.

"I've still got plenty to do," he laughed.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter