THE NEXT Mayor of Wrexham is still an unknown after a chaotic bad-tempered full council meeting to decide the issue.
Just before the meeting, current Deputy Mayor and preferred candidate for the role Brymbo Cllr Paul Rogers (Con) withdrew his candidacy at the last minute.
Cllr Rogers is currently serving a three-month suspension from the council having been found to have breached the code of conduct by the ombudsman for his involvement in an incident on a bus outside Ysgol Tanyfron two years ago.
This late twist caused tensions to come to the fore as opposition councillors argued over the process of how Cllr Rogers had come to be selected with his nomination potentially bringing the council into disrepute.
What would normally be a formality to vote on the next mayor, with preferred candidates for Mayor and Deputy Mayor having already been chosen behind closed doors by the cross-party Constitutional Working Group, descended into a slanging match in which tempers frayed.
Councillors from the ruling Independent / Conservative coalition group wanted to follow officer advice and return the decision back to the Constitution Working Group.
This group looks at candidates for the role who have not served as Mayoralty before, taking into account factors such as attendance at meetings and length of service as a councillor before proposing candidates.
But in the weeks leading up to this meeting, Labour and Plaid councillors had withdrawn from the working group alleging that the ruling administration had engineered the process to ensure the selection of their preferred candidates.
Labour councillors tabled an amendment to put forward their members, Cefn West Cllr Stella Matthews and Coedpoeth Cllr Krista Childs for the respective roles.
This led to arguments about procedure, numerous points of order and accusations of personal attacks from across the Guildhall chamber.
Chairing the meeting, current Mayor, Whitegate Cllr Brian Cameron (Lab) cut an increasingly exasperated figure as he refereed a debate which threatened to bubble over as tensions rose to the surface, speeches became increasingly personal and accusations were thrown around.
The council’s monitoring officer Lynda Roberts and chief executive Ian Bancroft were also called on to intervene several times throughout, to refute allegations from opposition members that the proper process had not been followed and to clarify everything had been above board and legal.
But those accusations rose the heckles of several members of the council’s leadership including leader Esclusham Cllr Mark Pritchard (Ind) and Johnstown Cllr David A Bithell (Ind).
Leader of the Plaid group, Grosvenor Cllr Marc Jones and Labour group leader Ruabon Cllr Dana Davies both felt taking the decision back behind closed doors would “damage” public confidence in the council.
Supporting the amendment Cllr Marc Jones said: “If all members are able to attend and vote what is the difference between that (the working group) and this meeting tonight?
“Because as far as I can see this one is public and that one would not be public.
“On that basis alone I think we need to debate it now and vote on it now otherwise the perception will be that we’re taking this behind closed doors and we’re not allowing people to see the workings of the council.”
But the vote on the amendment to select Cllr Matthews and Cllr Childs fell, with 24 for and 29 against.
A separate vote was taken on the remaining proposal which saw the working group’s preferred candidate, Marford Cllr Beryl Blackmore (Ind), nominated for the Deputy Mayor role which brought an unedifying spectacle to a close.
The choice of Mayor will now go back to the Constitution Working Group where members will try again to agree on a candidate.