Mayor David Elliott was forced to sit through an uncomfortable few minutes at the Full Council after one of his own party criticised the amount of money spent on the ceremonial role.
Conservative Cllr Sean Holden, of Benenden and Cranbrook, courted murmurs of ‘low blow sir’ when is proposed amendment to cut the Mayor’s budget by £16,000 descended into a polemic.
Unable to defend himself, the Mayor sat in silence as fellow Conservative Cllr Holden proposed what he referred to as his ‘Dick Whittington amendment’.
Cllr Holden argued some of the £63,000 Mayor’s budget should be spent on rubbish collection, following a halving of the civil amenities budget. However, what sympathy he had among colleagues about the
‘double taxation’ of residents, an issue no Conservative is ever comfortable with, was lost when he criticised the mayoral pantomime.
He said: “If you ask people in Benenden and Cranbrook if they think their taxes should go on a reclaimed rubbish collection or to a Mayor in a pantomime costume in Tunbridge Wells you will get some pretty fruity answers.
“We have heard the very praiseworthy fact the Mayor has raised over £25,000 for charity.
“I have to point out many taxpayers might say it will save them £40,000 if we got rid of the costly civic pantomime and just wrote a cheque for the Mayor’s chosen charity.”
This attack stirred murmurs of discontent among colleagues, with even one Labour councillor later admitting it had gone ‘a bit far’.
Leaping to the defence of Cllr Elliott, who looked as if he would rather be elsewhere by this point, Council Leader David Jukes rallied the troops and elicited laughter when he hit back, jokingly calling Cllr Holden ‘a miserable b****r’.
Cllr Jukes then set about dissecting Cllr Holden’s argument that the current situation was being imposed by the borough council.
He said it was ‘unfortunate’ that some of the parish council chairmen did not turn up for meetings with their peers and borough councillors, adding that if they did they would have been consulted on the cuts.
The rallying call inspired Cllr Jane March, of equally rural Brenchley and Horsmonden, to give an impassioned defence of the Mayor: “I would like to mention Cllr Holden does not speak for my parish and should not give the implication that all parishes are against this.
“I also wonder who Cllr Holden is actually speaking for? From what I know, the people from Benenden and Cranbrook – when the mayor went down there – they came out in force.
“They were extremely positive about the Mayor and Mayoress and I just think that, possibly, you may have got your wires crossed.”
The amendment was roundly defeated.