Should Halesworth have a mayor?

The Thoroughfare, Halesworth.

The Thoroughfare, Halesworth. - Credit: Archant

It is an argument that has been dividing opinion in Halesworth for many years.

The question for residents is whether the town should have a mayor or continue to have a chairman as leader of the town council.

While the leader of Halesworth Town Council is a chairman, the neighbouring towns of Beccles, Bungay and Southwold all have mayors.

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey re-opened the debate last year by suggesting that Halesworth should have a mayor.

However, there has been plenty of opposition to the proposal.

The letters column of the Beccles and Bungay Journal has seen arguments for and against a change.

Former town council chairman Alan Holzer said the towns that have mayors were all former boroughs having the right to have a mayor.

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He wrote: “For Halesworth to have a mayor would, in my view, be creating an historically false situation and, since the mayor would have no additional powers, there would be no advantage in Halesworth changing the present situation.”

He was supported in his argument by former town councillor David Thomas who also wrote to the Beccles and Bungay Journal pointing out that the paper carried its own survey last year which showed 71pc were against having a mayor.

Once again people living in Halesworth are being given the opportunity to have their say on whether they should have a mayor.

Halesworth Town Council has set up a survey on its website to garner opinion on a change from having a chairman to a mayor.

Annette Dunning, the current chairman of the council, said a lot of people have been talking about the issue, but that so far it had not been opened up to a debate.

She added: “It shouldn’t make us behave any differently, we should still behave as a leader of any other council would.

“It’s not any more important but it’s how we as a town reflect our town out in the rest of the community of Suffolk. It’s all about the promotion of our town.”

The topic of whether the town should have a mayor was last debated in around 2006.

The introduction to the survey says: “There are no additional powers associated with a mayor over a chairman, however the title of mayor enables the office holder to wear the traditional robes of office when representing the town at functions, civic events and ceremonies.

“If the response was favourable the town would then have a mayor and deputy mayor. Traditionally a mayor would then adopt a charity and hold functions and events to support their adopted charity. The cost of the robes will be raised independently of the council and will not be funded by the tax paying residents of the town.”

To take part in the survey, visit