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Third term for Swaffham mayor?

PUBLISHED: 08:22 14 May 2008 | UPDATED: 10:52 08 July 2010

Swaffham councillors are poised to suspend standing orders to allow current mayor Shirley Matthews to stand for a third year.

Current guidelines say mayors cannot stand for a third election, but the Times understands that the Conservative group has agreed to back Mrs Matthews for the top position without any challenges at the council's meeting tonight.

Swaffham councillors are poised to suspend standing orders to allow current mayor Shirley Matthews to stand for a third year.

Current guidelines say mayors cannot stand for a third election, but the Times understands that the Conservative group has agreed to back Mrs Matthews for the top position without any challenges at the council's meeting tonight.

A source, who did not wish to be named, said: “There are three people other than Shirley Matthews who have put their names forward. When the Conservative group met, Shirley Matthews got the vote. Standing orders say you're not allowed to do that (allow the third election of the mayor). What they're planning to do is to suspend standing orders and push Shirley Matthews through. “They wanted to make sure that when it came to voting for the mayor at the council meeting nobody would challenge the decision and that all would be settled.”

Mrs Matthews said there were a number of people with less than 18 months experience on the council which led to a division of opinion.

“The position is there are six members of the council that have been there only a year and two of those six have only been 18 months,” she said.

“Several people think that the mayor ought to have more experience than that so we'll see how it goes. I'm quite easy really. If they want me to stand I'll stand, if not it's fine.”

She added: “We've been in a very unusual situation for a long time. This is the third time that we had to vote. The first time somebody had to stand down with a month's notice, so I took it on. The second time the deputy mayor who should have gone on to being mayor did not stand at the election, so I took it on again, which was last year. The person who was deputy mayor last year gave up after two months. Because he's a postmaster he thought he could not do it. And then we gave the position to David Butters.”

Mrs Matthews said Mr Butters was unlikely to become a mayor given his poor health.

“So there are mixed opinions all around and we'll see how it goes. She said standing orders will have to be suspended if Mr Butters does not move on from deputy mayor to mayor.

“The normal procedure would be he (David Butters) would slip into being mayor and we would vote for the deputy mayor. But if he's going to say he can't carry on, and I don't know what his intentions are, standing orders would have to be suspended. The fact that he's not going to take on the mayorship, standing orders would be suspended as a matter of course.”

Mr Butters, who became deputy mayor after Frank Sharpe resigned, said he would like to stand for the top position, but insisted his interests were mainly focused on the town's museum.

“I would like to stand for the position, but I think it's best I do what I do best and that is the museum,” he said.

“I would like to be a mayor but I don't think health-wise that would be a good idea. Besides, the museum needs my attention.

“I'm sure there are lots of people on the council who would make good mayors. A lot of people have encouraged me to take the next step and stand for the mayorship. My very own family included. I think that it would be better for all concerned if I concentrated on one job rather than try and do jobs and not do them properly. I've been on the council since 1999 and I have achieved a fair bit, I think. This is an unusual situation. There needs to be somebody trained up for the job next year.”

The Times also understands that independent councillor David Wickerson is considering standing for the top position.

He refused to make any comment regarding the speculation, but said: “I don't know what is going to happen but whatever plans people have will certainly come up at the meeting. Everything is so much up in the air.”

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