Berwick Town Council breaks with mayoral tradition

Berwick Town Council has broken with mayoral tradition in the latest instalment of a row over the community's Portas Pilot fund

Berwick Town Councillor Georgina Hill
Berwick Town Councillor Georgina Hill

A council has broken with tradition by failing to promote its deputy mayor, amid a bitter row over a funding pot.

Berwick Town Council has voted to retain Isabel Hunter as its mayor for a second year, in a snub to her deputy Georgina Hill who had been expected to take over the role. The move is a departure from the council’s normal practice which sees the mayor serve 12 months before being replaced by their deputy.

It is the latest development in a dispute involving members and clerk Sue Finch over the town council’s assumption of responsibility for Berwick’s Portas Pilot fund.

Last September, Coun Hill was critical of the council’s decision to agree to take on the fund being made “in secret.”

On the back of that, Mrs Finch threatened to make a complaint against Coun Hill and the council as a whole.

A month later, Coun Hill lodged counter complaints against Mrs Finch which were later subject to independent investigation which found there “a possible discipline case to answer.”

Earlier this month, Mrs Finch again claimed to be planning complaints against Coun Hill and other councillors.

And at the council’s annual meeting this week, Coun Hunter was chosen to remain as mayor by eight votes to seven, with one abstention.

Coun John Stephenson, who was elected the new deputy mayor, told how members had been advised by one councillor that, owing to Coun Hill’s complaints about Mrs Finch, there could be financial risks to the authority if she become mayor due to the potential for a claim by the clerk for constructive dismissal.

Coun Hill said: “There is clearly something very underhand going on... Now it’s exploded into them stopping me being mayor.”

Mrs Finch declined to comment.

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