Bicester: Mayor's chain to be gilt not gold in money-saving bid

7:00pm Thursday 14th February 2013

By Sam McGregor

WITH growing pressure on the public purse, town councillors in Bicester have downgraded the mayor’s chain from gold to silver gilt.

The ruling Conservative party on Bicester Town Council has agreed to buy a new silver gilt chain costing £8,636.52, including VAT which can be reclaimed, to replace the current gold one.

But a row over the decision could lead to a local referendum.

The current chain’s 47 links are full and the past five mayor’s names have not been recorded on it. But it was deemed too expensive to buy 15 new gold links, at a cost of about £20,000, so an “austerity” chain has been approved instead.

Monday’s council meeting was the third time the issue has been discussed by councillors.

Town councillor James Porter said: “There are those who will try to say this is about personal gratification and an ego boost – it is not.

“It’s about providing the town with continuity, a foot in the past and moving a foot into the future.”

He said £5,453 would be used from the Othello Fund – cash from the sale of an Othello bust by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova which was sold in the 1980s – and the rest would come from general reserves.

Fellow town councillor Dan Sames, the current mayor, said: “What we are proposing here is good for the town’s reputation and value for money in these austere times.”

In a heated debate in November, long-standing Conservative councillor Debbie Pickford joined forces with opposition councillors to fight the plan to replace the chain.

Opposition councillor Les Sibley said: “It’s a shameful move by this town council. It’s purely to satisfy the vanity of five town councillors. I think it is absolutely wrong to use taxpayers’ money to pay for this.”

Former mayors’ names are added to a board in the council chamber in Garth House, which Mr Sibley said was “sufficient record”.

And fellow opposition councillor Nick Cotter said he would consider calling a town poll “if this council is so arrogant about spending taxpayers’ money on this vanity project.”

The new chain will have 35 links. The past five mayors’ names would be added and there would be space for the next 30 holders of the office.

* The meeting heard Banbury Town Council is also looking to buy a replica chain for town mayors to wear so its “irreplaceable” Victorian one can be kept secure.

Council leader Kieron Mallon said the move was a cross-party decision to protect the chain, which dates back to 1870. Mayors names are not inscribed on it. Price estimates are currently being sought.

HISTORY OF THE CURRENT CHAIN THE current 18 ct gold mayor’s chain will be put on display in a locked cabinet in the council chamber.

It was donated to the town by Albert Taylor in 1960 after he won £147,000 on the Littlewood football pools.

At the time there was no chain for the chairman of the then Bicester Urban District Council.

The chain was passed on to Bicester Town Council in 1974 when local government reorganisation led to the creation of Cherwell District Council.

In 2008, then Bicester mayor John Cozens lost the £5,000 centrepiece of the mayoral chain on the way to a charity dinner at Oxford Town Hall. It was never found and the council had to claim on insurance to replace it.

THE current 18 ct gold mayor’s chain will be put on display in a locked cabinet in the council chamber.

It was donated to the town by Albert Taylor in 1960 after he won £147,000 on the Littlewood football pools.

At the time there was no chain for the chairman of the then Bicester Urban District Council.

The chain was passed on to Bicester Town Council in 1974 when local government reorganisation led to the creation of Cherwell District Council.

In 2008, then Bicester mayor John Cozens lost the £5,000 centrepiece of the mayoral chain on the way to a charity dinner at Oxford Town Hall. It was never found and the council had to claim on insurance to replace it.

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