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Value of Lord Mayor is 'impossible to quantify'.

Byline: SIMON GILBERT Chief Reporter news@trinitymirror.com

COVENTRY City Council has admitted it can't demonstrate how much money the Lord Mayor's position generates for the city.

A Telegraph investigation revealed yesterday that the post has cost taxpayers well in excess of PS300,000 over the past five years.

During that time, there has been no reduction to the position's budget while residents will have been forced to endure PS119m of cuts between 2010 and 2020.

The ceremonial position is rotated among serving councillors on an annual basis and is designed to help promote the city and encourage investment. But, when asked, the council said it would be "impossible to quantify financially" how much cash the Lord Mayor generates for the city.

They also argued that the position brought "joy" to residents and insisted the Lord Mayor's budget had received a "real term cut" because it had not risen in line with inflation in recent years.

Coventry's Lord Mayors have spent PS312,217 on events, visits and lunches during the past five years.

The residents of Coventry will have seen PS119 million in Coventry City Council cuts between 2010 and 2020, but the Lord Mayor's taxpayerfunded budget has remained untouched at PS65,596-a-year.

The last five Lord Mayors have come in under budget for their spending.

Lord Mayors also pick up an additional allowance from taxpayers for performing the civic role, which is on top of their basic PS13,287 allowance.

A new deputy mayor is also installed every year, with a view to becoming the next Lord Mayor, and is awarded an additional civic allowance.

The deputy mayor's allowance is roughly half of the Lord Mayor's.

The last Lord Mayor was Cllr Lindsley Harvard. He received an additional annual payment of PS28,519 for his civic duties on top of his PS13,287 annual councillor's allowance. The Telegraph asked if the council could continue to justify the spend on the Lord Mayor's position in the wake of such savage cuts to services.

We also asked if rules could be changed to allow the position of "Coventry's first citizen" to be awarded to someone who isn't an elected councillor already receiving an allowance from the taxpayer.

A Coventry City Council spokesperson said: "Constitutionally the position of Lord Mayor must be an elected member.

"As First Citizen the Lord Mayor also carries out the important role as chair of the council. This is the same for every local authority.

"The Lord Mayor's hospitality budget hasn't increased for a number of years, not even by the rate of inflation, therefore it represents a cut in real terms.

"The budget is carefully managed and last year was underspent by around PS8,000 which was returned to the council."

He added: "The Lord Mayor carries out a number of roles.

"The hospitality budget refers to events where the Lord Mayor is the host, however, in addition the Lord Mayor carries out on average around 600 functions every year.

"This typically includes the opening of new businesses, Freedom of the City ceremonies, community activities, recognising the contribution of the Armed Forces and hosting international visitors.

"The Lord Mayor's Office is inundated with requests for the Lord Mayor's presence at community, charity, private and trade events and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive from people who gain joy from having the First Citizen of Coventry attend.

"The Lord Mayor can be a major influence in promoting the image of Coventry at a local, national and international level.

"While impossible to quantify financially, it is true to say the position of Lord Mayor is highly respected within many countries, cities and organisations around the world and the presence of the Lord Mayor can help open the doors of opportunity as Coventry seeks investment."

The first Lord Mayor was elected in 1953. The Lord Mayor acts as the chairman of the council, with the casting vote. They are the non-political, ceremonial head.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 10, 2017
Words:653
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