As Labour prepares to announce their new mayor, Lib Dems have repeated their call for the role to be abolished.
It is planned that Wednesday’s meeting of the City Council will see a new mayor inaugurated to succeed Councillor Lynda Scanlan. The role is largely a ceremonial one: the two principal duties of the mayor are to a) chair meetings of the city council and b) to attend social functions on behalf of the city council. Currently the Mayor can claim a special responsibility allowance (SRA) of £17,205 plus expenses, whilst the Deputy Mayor may also claim a special responsibility allowance of £5735. Under the Council’s scheme of allowances, this money is paid in addition to basic allowance which all councillors may claim.
Following a report released by the Taxpayers Alliance last year, it also emerged that Sunderland City Council had spent £42,000 in providing mayoral transport since 2015, one of the highest in the North East of England.
At a meeting of the full city council on Wednesday, local Liberal Democrats will call on the council to abolish the role. Liberal Democrat Councillor Niall Hodson said:
’The role of the Mayor is essentially a ceremonial one. The duty of presiding over council business is not a particularly onerous one. One would expect that all Councillors would attend full council, so this aspect of the role if hardly a demanding one. We will propose to establish an unpaid elected chairperson and deputy instead, with no additional allowance.'
'As regards social functions, it is ridiculous, in a time of austerity to pay someone to attend dinners and functions, along with their spouse or partner. The role is a cushy one that does not warrant the SRA paid to it. Instead of a mayor, we have numerous other offices which can be called upon to represent the Council. The city currently has six unpaid aldermen. Or alternatively, rather than paying one councillor to act as mayor, we could divide civic functions amongst the wider body of council members.’
‘This is not the first time we have made this call. We called for it in our budget amendments this year and the year previously, however Labour and Conservative councillors voted against it. Sunderland City Council says it doesn't have money to pay for basic services that people want and need, like emptying bins regularly, fixing potholes and pavements, and keeping our streets clean. One way they could save money would be to axe the positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor. People want to see taxpayers' money spent on getting basic city services right - not on seeing Labour councillors dressed up in Mayoral chains and robes being chauffeured around the city at our expense.'