Bitter row erupts over who gets to be Camden’s next mayor

Cllr Jonathan Simpson during his last stint as mayor

Cllr Jonathan Simpson during his last stint as mayor - Credit: Archant

A row has broken out at the town hall over who should be the next mayor of Camden.

Liberal Democrat politicians are aghast that ruling Labour has nominated Cllr Jonathan Simpson to serve a second term – just two years after he hung up his chain.

In a relatively rare move, the appointment will now be contested with the Lib Dems nominating Cllr Flick Rea, a member for Fortune Green ward.

They feel the role as the borough’s figurehead, who is expected to be politically neutral and also chairs full council meetings, should be shared across the political divide.

Cllr Keith Moffitt, leader of Camden Lib Dems, said: “When we and the Conservatives led the council [from 2006 to 2010], we introduced a system of rotating between all political parties.

“We’re very disappointed that Labour has stopped doing that because it’s supposed to be neutral and non-political.

“Not only are they not going to rotate it across parties – they have run out of people to rotate it within their own ranks. I think it’s indefensible.”

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The role carries an allowance of £15,954 on top of the basic £9,654 received by all councillors, along with a car and driver.

Cllr Simpson served in 2011/12 and has also been deputy to outgoing mayor Cllr Heather Johnson over the past 12 months, a role that carries a special member’s allowance of £1,593.

Cllr Moffitt added: “When someone is coming back almost immediately that does not seem right, especially when people in other parties are very capable. Flick Rea has the longest continuous service on the council and would be an excellent mayor.”

Labour councillor Theo Blackwell, cabinet member for finance, said: “It’s not the first time they have tried this and it’s playing politics with the mayoralty.”

The mayor also holds the casting vote if there is a tie on motions in the council chamber.

Cllr Blackwell added: “Constitutionally, the mayor has the casting vote, so if there’s a tie on an important decision, the mayor’s vote really counts. So it’s not a purely ceremonial post about opening rose gardens.”

He added that Labour has “great respect” for Cllr Rea and that she might stand a better chance “if she would like to defect to Labour”.

Neither Cllr Simpson nor Cllr Rea was available for comment.