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Wrexham Council appoints new Mayor

The returning Mayor of Cllr Andy Williams (souce: Wrexham Council webcast)

THERE is a returning mayor for the city of Wrexham as Garden Village Cllr Andy Williams has taken up the chains of office.

Cllr Williams (Ind), who previously served as mayor in 2018-19, was installed during the annual ceremony at the Guildhall succeeding Whitegate Cllr Brian Cameron (Lab) in the role.

Introducing Cllr Williams, leader of the council Esclusham Cllr Mark Pritchard (Ind) praised his work ethic, charity work and popularity when in the role previously.

Cllr Williams has been a local firefighter for more than 30 years and is the frontline operational crew manager for the fire station in Wrexham.

He is also a community first responder for the Welsh Ambulance Service and a volunteer for the Blood Bikes charity amongst other charities too.

The new Deputy Mayor is Marford and Hoseley Cllr Beryl Blackmore (Ind).

Deputy Mayor Cllr Beryl Blackmore (source: Wrexham Council webcast)

Cllr Pritchard spoke of her work in the Marford and Gresford community, including starting up the first Marford guides which is still running more than 30 years later, and an after school club.

Addressing the council chamber, Cllr Williams paid tribute to outgoing mayor Cllr Cameron for his stint and added: “As I was told this morning I’m a recycled mayor as I’ve done it before!

“I do know the role and I’m looking forward to carrying out my duties.”

Cllr Williams’ charities for the year will be the Blood Bikes, Wales Air Ambulance, Nightingale House and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Cllr Blackmore said she felt “privileged and proud” to take on the role of Deputy Mayor.

But the mayoral selection process has been mired in controversy this year.

Initial choice Brymbo Cllr Paul Rogers (Ind) withdrew his candidacy having being suspended as a councillor after being found to have breached the code of conduct by the ombudsman.

Opposition councillors then publicly voiced their unhappiness about the selection process and the workings of the behind-closed-doors Constitutional Working Group, before Cllr Williams was selected in an apparent attempt to unify members due to his popularity with the public in his previous term.

But feelings ran so high that all nine Plaid Cymru councillors boycotted this year’s ceremony.

Ahead of the meeting they issued a statement which said: “We regret that we are unable to attend because it is an important day for the incoming mayor Andy Williams, who we wish all the best in his forthcoming term, and a chance to say thanks to the outgoing mayor, Brian Cameron.

“However, the mayoral role – which is meant to be the highest civic honour rather than a political gift – has become tainted by the actions of the ruling (Independent / Conservative) coalition.

“Four mayoral nominations in recent years have been councillors who have joined the ruling Independent group after being elected.

“The perception is that the mayoralty is in the gift of the ruling coalition rather than being bestowed impartially on the basis of long service and seniority. It undermines the role and reflects badly on the council as a whole.

“As a result, we will not be taking part in this mayor-making process but do give our full backing to Cllr Andy Williams and his new deputy, Cllr Beryl Blackmore.”

“We would also like the council to review the way the annual council meeting is held. Tradition had dictated that the Tuesday meeting is always adjourned after the mayor is elected for a buffet and then the meeting is reconvened a day later to complete the business of the annual meeting.

“Do we really need two meetings with the extra work and cost for officers?”

The Plaid Cymru group’s claims about the role being a “political gift” have been dismissed and rejected in previous meetings about the selection of mayor both by the ruling administration’s leadership and the council’s legal officer.