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How to be a good Mayor

Phelps Cllr Barry Phelps offers some advice based on his experiences as Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea from 2004-5. 

Life is an ego trip and there is no better trip than being Mayor of your community. English Mayors, with a few exceptions, are ceremonial and so like Her Majesty the Queen, but unlike the Prime Minister, you enjoy the flattery without the brickbats. While Mayor you can do no wrong with Council Standing Orders always  starting "The decision of the Mayor shall be final". I  enjoyed the added distinction of being Mayor of one of the only three Royal Boroughs in England.  (We have an abundance of Lord Mayors, no less than 23, so they lack rarity value.)

As the ceremonial head of your community you need to act the part. Your residents and business community expect you to look like the Mayor, sound like a Mayor and behave like a Mayor. They do not want you to turn up to their event, if a man, in casual clothes and no tie nor, if a woman, looking as if you have just rushed to them from the school-run via the supermarket. They want their Mayor to turn up in a morning-coat  or in a stylish but conventional dress, offsetting the Mayoral  gold chain to best effect.  A modest degree of pomposity goes down well. Arrival in a large black saloon car with liveried chauffeur-cum-Macebearer completes residents' enjoyment of your presence. Dressing up gives people a photograph with you which they can treasure. Nobody will treasure a photograph of themselves with some bearded-weirdy Mayor wearing jeans, sandals and a "Ban-The-Bomb" T-shirt with the chain-of-office.

Your self-respect requires you do the job well. That includes being pleasant to Labour Members, icily polite to Lib-Dems and punctiliously correct to both. This can be difficult if you are that rare species, a Mayor with a hung council, but  a sense of natural justice should see you through.  The Mayor must never be Political but often has to be politic. Do not chase the twin totems of logging more functions and raising more money for charity than any of your predecessors. The job is demanding enough anyway - especially if you have many active community groups who believe they have the God given right to have The Worshipful  The Mayor turn up to their annual shindig.

Two other people are crucial to a successful Mayoralty. Your Deputy and your Secretary. The Deputy Mayor needs to be a creditable stand-in for you but not to overshadow you. He (or she)  should compliment your qualities so that if, say, you have a nine-to-five job he is in charge of his own diary or, better still, newly retired. Your Secretary needs to guide you effortlessly through the demands of protocol, keep your spending within the Purse (always inadequate) and make sure you are always, yes always, punctual.

Which is all to a purpose. While Mayor you are the focal point of your community, the guardian of  the community spirit, the embodiment of its history. Communities only work well when they have local pride and as Mayor you must nourish and nurture that pride. It's a worthwhile role with immense job-satisfaction,

And I almost forgot. You have to remain sober throughout your time in the Parlour.


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