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Mayor in chains must do without regalia

PUBLISHED: 12:45 12 October 2001 | UPDATED: 15:18 03 March 2010

WHEN leading members of the community in Woodbridge were invited to the revival of the town's Civic Service they expected to find their mayor dressed in regalia in keeping with the historic market town and to match the dignitaries from all over Suffolk.

WHEN leading members of the community in Woodbridge were invited to the revival of the town's Civic Service they expected to find their mayor dressed in regalia in keeping with the historic market town and to match the dignitaries from all over Suffolk.

But Les Binns stood out from the crowd for the wrong reason.

He was in his usual smart suit with his mayoral chain whereas other mayors were dressed in red or black gowns and accompanied by similarly dressed town clerks.

One member of the public was so outraged that Woodbridge was second best he immediately offered £50 towards the cost of buying robes for such special occasions.

Former mayor Russell Geen asked the town council to consider buying robes for the mayor. He was unable to attend this week's town council meeting to present a report but his fellow councillors decided the money would be better spent on the provision of more street lights, litter bins and redecorating the Shire Hall.

But the mayor himself, Mr Binns, of Portland Crescent, believes anyone in his position should have some form of ceremonial dress as part of the role.

''My personal view is that the Woodbridge mayor should be robed. It is for the dignity of the town and it recognises the fact that we are a historic market town, mentioned in the Domesday Book, and founded in the 10th Century," he said.

''It also proves that the town is concerned about what their mayor looks like and that he should be clothed in the appropriate manner as other towns are in this area.''

Before the councillor's debate over the robing issue Woodbridge clerk Chris Walker conducted a survey of other town mayors in Suffolk to discover their dress habits.

She found Bury St Edmunds had the longest robing tradition, dating back to the 1600s, with the Mayor of St Edmundsbury cutting a fine figure at the town's many parades.

Stowmarket and Needham Market have recently taken the decision to buy robes for their mayors and, according to information circulating on the Internet, the cost would range from £350 to £1,200 to buy robes for Woodbridge. But the council was advised they needed to spend towards the maximum figure to ensure the robes would last.

In the end councillors decided, by a large majority, robes could not be top of the agenda when there were pressing matters such as spending £54 on a dog bin, £167 for a litter bin, two street lights for £1,000, or £100,000 on doing up the council's headquarters in Market Square.

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