Mayor trying to steer council through a crisis

Mayor Isabel Hunter with Tom Gardner on his GoldWing bike, which will from part of the light parade through Berwick fundraising for the RNLI

Mayor Isabel Hunter with Tom Gardner on his GoldWing bike, which will from part of the light parade through Berwick fundraising for the RNLI

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In normal circumstances, a new mayor would take centre stage at the traditional mayor-making ceremony one week after being installed.

But rather than pose for photographs at the town hall on Monday, Councillor Isabel Hunter was instead being pictured on the back of a large motorbike to promote an event coming to Berwick later this year.

Berwick Town Council said in a statement that the mayor-making ceremony “would not have been appropriate this year”, after Councillor Hunter became the town’s first mayor to be re-elected in around 40 years.

It came as a string of revelations about internal complaints and counter-complaints came to light at last week’s heated public meeting.

In a break with tradition at what is usually a ceremonial vote, deputy mayor Councillor Georgina Hill lost out in an election to take over as mayor.

As the dust settled, Coun Hunter declined a request to be interviewed by the Berwick Advertiser about the crisis, explaining that she was unable to do so due to the town council’s ‘communications protocol’.

However, she agreed to answer questions by email via the council office.

Asked why she agreed to be re-elected mayor for a second year, Coun Hunter replied: “On the night I was proposed and seconded and then elected via 8 votes to 7, so not to accept the position would mean I was turning against the councillors who voted for me.”

Coun Hunter’s re-election went through after it emerged that the town clerk, Sue Finch, is under independent investigation following a complaint made against her by Coun Hill.

A majority of councillors voted against Coun Hill after raising fears that her appointment would have left the council vulnerable to a claim of constructive dismissal.

Berwick Town Council said in a statement: “The investigation being carried out, at the request of Councillor Hill, into complaints made by Councillor Hill about the Town Clerk, are continuing, and will be completed when all the information supporting the complaints, is provided by Councillor Hill.”

Coun Hill continued her campaign by publishing a series of revealing emails and documents on her Facebook page this week, exposing some of what has been going on behind the scenes in recent months.

It emerged last week that Ms Finch has made code of conduct complaints about at least three other councillors, including Coun Hill, Coun Tom Forrester and the mayor herself.

Asked by the Advertiser how much damage has been done to the reputation and credibility of the council over recent months, Coun Hunter replied: “Over the past year the town council has continued to support initiatives and efforts to benefit the town and its residents, and will continue to do so in the coming year.”

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