In a move described as “outrageous, undemocratic and contemptible” by Councillor Robin Parker, Liberal Democrat opposition group leader on Stevenage Borough Council, the ruling Labour majority group on Stevenage Borough Council have today announced that the Mayor of Stevenage must always be Labour again.

The post of Mayor represents the town and is meant to be non-party political. For decades until 2006, Labour insisted it had to be a Labour councillor. Robin Parker, who was first elected to Stevenage Borough Council in 1982, fought for over 24 years to make the selection of Mayor non-political and allow long serving members who were not Labour to be Mayor. Eventually, he secured a written agreement, dated 20.5.2006, with the Labour and Conservative group leaders to allow this.

Now, in a letter to Cllr. Robin Parker, the Labour council leader, Sharon Taylor, has told him that the agreement is finished, with no notice or discussion.

Only one Mayor was not Labour during the 4 year agreement and this was Conservative Graham Clark in 2007 – 2008. Although top of the “time served” list on which eligibility for Mayor is based, Liberal Democrat Robin Parker did not insist on being Mayor. He said:

Having fought for 24 years to get all party Mayors agreed, I stuck to my principles and was happy for it to be a Conservative who became Mayor in 2007. ‘All Party’ means just that.

This unilateral decision by Labour came out of the blue. It is outrageous because it is saying only Labour people are good enough to represent Stevenage. What about the 67% of voters who did not vote Labour? It is undemocratic because Cllr. Taylor’s letter makes clear that the change is being done so the Mayor will support and help Labour in the council chamber. Why cannot the Mayor be impartial, as Liberal Democrats want? It is contemptible because Labour are saying no-one but Labour is capable of chairing council meetings and because Labour have broken a signed agreement without notice or discussion. What exactly are Labour so scared of, if the Mayor is not Labour?

So now we know Labour cannot be trusted to keep their word.

Memo of Understanding 2006 05 20

Sharon Taylor Letter