MP calls for Halesworth to have a mayor

Suffolk Magazine - Interview with Therese Coffey MP.

Suffolk Magazine - Interview with Therese Coffey MP. - Credit: Archant

A rector and a former town council chairman have given their full backing to a campaign by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey to introduce the role of a mayor in Halesworth.

Dr Coffey is actively campaigning for the town to have a mayor instead of a council chairman as it does at present, something she feels would give Halesworth the stature it deserves.

She said: “Nearby towns such as Southwold, Beccles and Bungay all have mayors and if Halesworth had a mayor I am convinced it would bring benefits to the residents.”

Rev Edward Rennard, who proposed the idea as part of a ten-point plan in 2006, said he still feels very strongly about it.

He said: “I think it is a matter of trying to improve civic pride in Halesworth and I believe a mayor would do that. I think it would raise the profile of Halesworth in north east Suffolk and I think it could have economic benefits. People would take Halesworth much more seriously.”

Mr Rennard, rector of the Blyth Valley Team which includes Halesworth, said the suggestion was “thrown out” by the council seven years ago, but he hopes new members will rethink the idea.

Councillor James Wagner, the former chairman of Halesworth Town Council, said he has always been in favour of having a mayor.

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He said: “There would be a lot more opportunities for Halesworth if we became part of a mayor’s society, more grants would be available to us, and there would be a lot more events we could be seen at. It sounds trivial but socialising is part of promoting the town and telling people how great Halesworth is.

“I’ve been saying for quite some time that I think we should have a mayor and I think what Therese is doing is fantastic.”

In 2006, council chairman Alan Holzer knocked back the idea saying it would be less effective and too expensive.

But Mr Wagner said: “The regalia would be quite expensive but it would be a one-off purchase.

“We need to let the people of Halesworth speak and see if they want a mayor because if they do they will support it.”

However Halesworth town councillor David Thomas said there are in place processes to enable the town council to introduce the term mayor into its lexicon without such a campaign.

He said if a mayor was introduced it would not give that role any extra authority than that of any other councillor and questioned wether the cost of introducing such a role would be better spent on one of the organisations in Halesworth that are struggling with funding issues.