Mayor Cllr Tony Heywood will be handing over to Bridgwater’s new mayor Cllr Leigh Redman in November, six months later than planned. Due to the Covid Crisis, local councils have been operating on Zoom, offices have largely been closed and a skeleton staff has been at work with many others working from home. Bridgwater Town Council has been no exception and in March voted emergency powers to the Town Clerk, David Mears, in consultation with key Executive Councillors. Meetings were suspended and roles frozen. In May each year the Town Council usually holds an annual meeting and elects one member to be Mayor for the following year. The role of Mayor is totally ceremonial and designed to promote the Town and to Chair the meetings. In 2019-20 the elected Mayor was Cllr Tony Heywood and his Deputy Mayor Cllr Leigh Redman. In normal years the Deputy would become Mayor the following year. Leader of Bridgwater Town Council Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) takes up the story.
“When the Covid crisis hit the councils this year we were in new territory and so we looked at what other councils did. Some chose to split the Covid year between the outgoing and the incoming Mayors, allowing the outgoing mayor to stay in post for an extended period. This is the approach that we decided to take with the agreement of both mayors. This is why we proposed to hold an Annual meeting in November where we can change Mayors. This was agreed by the majority Labour Group who control the Town Council and opposed by the minority Conservative Group. The Mayor’s budgets for the year have also been drastically cut along with much of the council’s planned budget, due to the considerable financial pressures that Covid has brought, and of course because the Mayor can’t really get out and about and do very much in this climate. “
The actual motion passed at the meeting was “This council agrees to hold the annual council meeting on 19 November 2020 whereby we will elect a new Mayor, Deputy Mayor and make appointments to committees and outside bodies”
A post on the Conservative Party website from Tory Deputy Leader Cllr Diogo Rodrigues , (who was elected in 2019 as a Labour candidate, then became an Independent before then joining the Conservatives) claiming that the Mayor ‘felt compelled to leave following pressure from the Labour Group’ appears to be an attempt to gain political mileage out of a health crisis that has caused major upheaval in every sphere of life and in every community and was described by Cllr Smedley, as politely as possible, as “What you might expect”.