Dilemma over mayor's robes

WHEN you join a chain gang, you would at least expect to be properly attired.But for Felixstowe mayor Cyril Webb, the flowing robes symbolising his status as the town's ceremonial leader are far from certain to adorn his shoulders with councillors split about splashing the cash on new threads.

WHEN you join a chain gang, you would at least expect to be properly attired.

But for Felixstowe mayor Cyril Webb, the flowing robes symbolising his status as the town's ceremonial leader are far from certain to adorn his shoulders with councillors split about splashing the cash on new threads.

As more and more towns decide their first citizen should don robes, there are concerns the resort is being left behind and has become the poor relation when mayors get together.

When Mr Webb and his wife Jean, the mayoress, attend functions, ceremonies and other special occasions they are surrounded by high-quality flowing felts, silks and velvets of different styles and colours, while he wears only a suit and tie.

Now the council feels robes could “enhance its status” and has set up a small working party to discuss whether to provide them - though it could cost up to £2,000 for mayor and town clerk to be suitably attired.

But not everyone is in favour of the idea.

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Three-times mayor Doreen Savage said: “I think there is some merit behind the idea but not at this time when local authorities are having to find savings and looking at ways not to spend money.

“I would be very loathe to support such expenditure at this time.”

Councillor Dot Paddick agreed. “I think our mayor looks very nice in a suit and that doesn't cost us anything. We seem to have a lot of other costs at this time.”

But former mayor and current chairman of Suffolk Coastal, Malcolm Minns, who put forward the robes idea, said there may be other possible sources of funding which could be considered.

“For a long time I have had strong feelings that we should enhance and upgrade the status and civic identity of the town,” he said.

“Now I am back on the civic circuit I am extremely conscious that Felixstowe is conspicuous by not having robes for its mayor and I feel we should seriously consider it.”

But current mayor Mr Webb has no strong feelings about the issue but says the mayoral chain gang are a fascinating breed.

“One sees an extraordinary mix of robes and regalia at various functions, but I think before we go for a vast expense we need to look in depth at what is involved, how many times and when it would be appropriate to wear them, the protocol involved and so on,” he said.

Do you think Felixstowe's mayor should wear robes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

DID YOU KNOW? Felixstowe's mayoral chain is the only civic regalia in the country to feature an RAF badge - a symbol dating from when the resort had an air station and token of its ongoing friendship with the force.

Factfile: The chain gang . . . Suffolk mayors who have robes include:

Bury St Edmunds

Woodbridge

Needham Market

Aldeburgh

Ipswich

When local government was reorganised in 1974, most towns which already had robes for their civic head continued to use them and new councils did not bother.

In recent years the trend has been to robe rather than not, wearing them for occasions such as civic services, mayor-making and Remembrance.

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