South East Wales

Lord Mayor of Cardiff 'scrapped' by Labour, council opposition parties claim

The Olympic rings outside Cardiff City Hall with footballers
Image caption Opposition parties say Cardiff needs a civic leader in place as it prepares to host Olympic and Diamond Jubilee events this summer

Labour leaders of Cardiff council have been attacked by rival parties who claim they have left the city with no Lord Mayor in Olympic and Jubilee year.

The council voted to split the roles of Lord Mayor and chairman of the council, but the separation needs the formal approval of the Privy Council.

Until then Cerys Furlong will do both jobs but will not be called Lord Mayor.

Cardiff council said it was about a "clearer, more effective separation of the business and civic functions".

A meeting of the authority on Thursday approved a plan to divide the roles.

The Lord Mayor of Cardiff has traditionally been a politically-neutral role, with the person in office chairing the council's monthly meetings as well as representing the city at official functions as its civic leader.

Allowances previously allocated to the Lord Mayor and their deputy would now be taken by the chairman and deputy chairman of the council.

A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: "These proposals are about implementing a clearer, more effective separation of the business and civic functions of the chair of the council and the Lord Mayor respectively.

"Both are very important functions for the council and the city - but we believe strongly that appropriate focus and prominence should be given to both roles."

The spokesman said the proposed separation of these functions recognised the importance and value of the ceremonial and civic functions of the Lord Mayor role, which would continue.

The Lord Mayor would also be able concentrate on the historic and traditional civic role and "to continue to provide a sense of tradition and representation at civic functions and events."

However, the decision needs Privy Council approval as Cardiff is one of four UK cities where the Lord Mayor enjoys the title of Right Honourable.

Opposition parties tried to block the plan, concerned that Cardiff would be left without a civic leader indefinitely.

Image caption Delme Bowen, the outgoing Lord Mayor of Cardiff, opened a pub on Flat Holm as part of his civic duties

Lib Dem leader Judith Woodman said: "I'm appalled by what they're planning to do - it's denigrating the Lord Mayoralty.

"The city could be without a Lord Mayor until this mess is sorted out.

"It could take some time for the Royal Warrant to be removed - I'm certain the Queen would not want to do this in her Diamond Jubilee year.

She also accused Labour of "politicising" the chairmanship of the council, and was concerned that charities could suffer if there was no-one to run the annual Lord Mayor's charity appeal.

David Walker, leader of the Conservative group, said he opposed the idea, especially in view of the timing.

"We have the Olympic torch relay, we have the Jubilee, and these are things the Lord Mayor has to attend," he said.

"At the moment there's no-one in place - Labour have left things in limbo.

Mr Walker rejected Labour's plan for Ms Furlong to carry out both roles until formal separation of the roles was approved by the Privy Council.

"She has a full time job, a child, and the chairmanship of the council," he said.

"The Lord Mayor has around 300 appointments a year, sometimes four or five in a day.

"Labour have seen these mayoral allowances and decided they would have them. I'm not keen on the idea, but if they had to do it, it would have been better to leave it till 2013."

A proposal by the opposition parties that last year's deputy mayor, independent councillor Jayne Cowan, should become Lord Mayor was voted down.

Plaid Cymru group leader Neil McEvoy claimed Labour had no mandate to make the change.

"There was not mention of it before the election, it wasn't in their manifesto.

"We're back to the days of jobs for the boys and girls.

"It brings shame on the city by abolishing the Lord Mayor.

"They don't even know if they can do it legally."

Mr McEvoy said he was arranging a public meeting to give the people of Cardiff an opportunity to share their views on the matter.

Plaid Cymru's Delme Bowen, who retired before May's local elections, was the outgoing Lord Mayor, the 107th person to serve in the post.

Politically neutral

Traditionally it has been a politically neutral role, with official responsibilities include chairing council meetings and ceremonial duties.

One of Prof Bowen's last duties in office was to welcome the Queen to Cardiff in April during her Diamond Jubilee tour.

Although the position of mayor of Cardiff goes back to 1126, it began to take its modern form only in 1835 when the first elected mayor took office.

Following the royal charter granting Cardiff city status in 1905 the position became known as the lord mayor.

Holders of the post were given the style of "the Right Honourable" - a ceremonial title shared only with the lord mayors of London, Belfast and York.

The council said the newly-elected chairman Councillor Cerys Furlong, in her capacity as First Citizen, will currently continue to undertake administrative and civic functions associated with the Lord Mayor, without exercising her entitlement to use that title.

She will be referred to as the "Chair of the Council" until a formal separation of the two functions can be achieved.

The new vice chair Councillor Keith Jones for the time being will also carry out the function of the Deputy Lord Mayor until a formal separation is finalised.

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