Grantham mayor hits back at ‘vindictive and electioneering’ members in budget row

The Lincolnshire flag flies over Grantham.
The Lincolnshire flag flies over Grantham.
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A row erupted over the mayor’s budget at a meeting of Charter Trustees when they said they were angry because the mayor had not consulted them over money spent on a flag and an outfit for the town crier.

They also criticised him for not talking to them before appointing the town crier and for wanting to spend £3,500 on a replica chain.

But Mayor of Grantham Coun Ian Selby said he was within his rights to spend his budget on these items.

He said: “The actions of several chartered trustees was spiteful and vindictive. Blatant electioneering took place. Two past mayors were only interested in cutting the next Mayor’s precept, thereby making the job ever more difficult to undertake, and considering that they had had the luxury of much larger precepts.”

Coun Selby told the meeting there was a reserve of £10,000. He suggested some of that money could be spent on refurbishing carpets and new blinds in the mayor’s parlour.

He said the mayoral chain was priceless to Grantham and that it should only be used on the most important occasions such as mayor-making. He said chains had been stolen from mayors in the past.

But former mayor Coun Ray Wootten said spending £3,500 on a replica was not a good idea during such ‘austere’ times.

After the meeting he said: “This chain has been worn by Mayors for over 300 years and is the symbol of office, a chain that has been worn for over 300 years and nothing has happened to it to date. It is clear that the Mayor Ian Selby, who proposed this, is not in tune with the people in the real world.”

Coun Charmaine Morgan said she would rather the money was kept in reserve than “turn around to people, some of whom are queuing in a Foodbank now, and say that we have spent thousands on a replica chain. I could not swallow that as a Charter Trustee. I would feel we are letting those people down.”

It was decided to ringfence the money and defer a decision on the replica to be made by the next group of Trustees. It was also decided to use £5,000 to reduce next year’s precept and £1,500 to be held in reserve.

Next year’s precept was set at £50,600. The precept under Coun Selby is £57,500.

Last year Coun Selby appointed Nobby Clark as town crier. Coun Mike Taylor said: “I think the Charter Trustees should have been consulted about the town crier. Why we need one I do not know.”

Coun Selby was also criticised for spending £97 on a Lincolnshire flag which now flies outside the council offices. Following the meeting Coun Selby said: “I would not dream of spending taxpayers money in a reckless manner, hence why I am well under my budget for the financial year and have saved money in numerous ways.

“Our chain of office made in 1766 is priceless to our town and it needs looking after. It needs re-gilding if continually used, but if a replica is purchased then money can be saved on re-gilding. I consulted the chartered trustees regarding the purchase of a replica chain and they procrastinate and defer a decision because they were running scared of the electorate, but after the elections in May they will do as they like without care for the electorate.

“I was criticised for reintroducing the town crier without consulting them. I have no regrets about my decision. If I’d consulted them they would still be making their minds up now. I am proud to be a Lincolnshire Yellow Belly and I was also criticised by a Yorkshire chartered trustee for purchasing a Lincolnshire flag for £96.99p to put on what was our empty flag pole and without consulting them first.

“The Charter Trustees take the pleasure out of doing the job of mayor, but at the end of the day, the people come first and it’s for them that I put all my efforts in. May I express my sincerest thanks to the public for their wonderful support.”

Do you agree with the Mayor’s actions. Do you think the town needs a mayor? Email your comments to: comment@granthamjournal.co.uk

Coun Selby gave the Journal a full statement (below) following the meeting of the Charter Trustees.

Coun Selby said: “The actions of several chartered trustees was spiteful and vindictive. Blatant electioneering took place. Two past mayors were only interested in cutting the next Mayor’s precept, thereby making the job ever more difficult to undertake, and considering that they had had the luxury of much larger precepts.

“I would not dream of spending taxpayers money in a reckless manner, hence why I am well under my budget for the financial year and have saved money in numerous ways.

“Our chain of office made in 1766 is priceless to our town and it needs looking after. Scrap value of the chain, it’s worthless. It needs re-gilding if continually used, but if a replica is purchased then money can be saved on re-gilding.

“I consulted the chartered trustees regarding the purchase of a replica chain and they procrastinate and defer a decision because they were running scared of the electorate, but after the elections in May they will do as they like without care for the electorate. In my view the purchase of a replica chain for £3,500 would be a fabulous investment for our town and its history, and would be repaid ten fold by visitors and tourists. To my knowledge there are only two chains of office in the country that have the Royal coat of arms on the front of a chain, and ours is one.

“I was criticised for reintroducing the town crier without consulting them. I have no regrets about my decision. If I’d consulted them they would still be making their minds up now. I would do the same again for the benefit of our town and the cost is negligible as Mrs Denise DeBank Cowell kindly made the gown free of charge. It only cost us for the materials instead of over £1,000 for a new gown. Mr Nobby Clark, our wonderful town crier, kindly undertakes the role on a voluntary basis.

“I am proud to be a Lincolnshire Yellow Belly and I was also criticised by a Yorkshire charter trustee for purchasing a Lincolnshire flag for £96.99 to put on what was our empty flag pole and without consulting them first. Incidentally the first Lincolnshire flag we had I paid for myself. If I waited for some of the spiteful, procrastinating decisions from some of the chartered trustees, I’d have got nothing done. So I therefore apologize to them for purchasing toilet rolls for the parlour without consulting them first.

“Note, not a single thank you from them for my efforts and also for giving access for the public to the Parlour, which has been open longer hours than our museum. The chartered trustees take the pleasure out of doing the job of Mayor, but at the end of the day, the people come first and its for them that I put all my efforts in. May I express my sincerest thanks to the public for their wonderful support.”