Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Mr Mayor - Cllr John Fletcher

Today was the big day - officially the Annual Meeting of Stockton Borough Council, unofficially known as Mayor-making. This is the meeting each year when appointments to positions within the council are made, starting with the Mayor, deputy mayor (who usually becomes mayor the following year) then going through cabinet, committees and outside bodies such as the Airport consultative panel and the Markets Forum. The role of Mayor is a civic role in Stockton, not an elected one as in Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and London. The mayor chairs council meetings and represents the borough at civic occasions but she or he also works very hard during the year to raise money for their chosen charities, often giving a big boost to local causes. For many years in Stockton the ruling political group decided who would be mayor but when the council became more politically balanced three years ago the rules were changed. The role of mayor is now offered to the longest serving councillor who hasn't already held the office, a change which allowed the first ever Liberal Democrat Mayor 2 years ago - Suzanne Fletcher, councillor for Bishopsgarth & Elmtree and a resident of Eaglescliffe. This year it was the turn of John Fletcher, the first elected representative of Eaglescliffe to hold that office.
Alan Lewis and I are delighted that John is able to be mayor. It means that we'll have to do our fair share of the work in the ward now, of course! Seriously, John will do a very good job as mayor and though he'll continue to represent the people of Eaglescliffe I hope they'll understand if sometimes it's Alan or me who answers a query rather than John.
John's chosen charities are Daisy Chain, which many Eaglescliffe residents will know of because the founder had strong links with Durham Lane School and the school still supports the charity regularly. For those who don't know it - Daisy Chain works to provide support and respite to families who have a child with autism and is currently fund raising to build a Day Centre on their site. They only need £500,000 so why not get in touch and buy a brick or two for them?
John's second charity, which will receive 25% of what he raises, is Justice First which is based in Stockton and works with people who are seeking asylum in this country but whose applications have been refused. Often this is because they cannot prove that they would be in danger if they went back home. Just imagine leaving your homeland in secret, fearing for your life and then being asked to prove that you are in danger. How can you do that? Yet that's what asylum seekers must do. Justice First helps them to find legal representation and medical help if needed to deal with the aftermath of their trauma. At times it also has to help with emergency support - food or clothing or shelter. For these people a little goes a long way - money to help with legal fees, a smile and a friendly word, the knowledge that people care.
For those who want to know more about life as mayor, John will be writing about his experiences on his blog. Unfortunately, thanks to the restrictions around the office of a civic Mayor in Stockton, John's blog won't be updated immediately he writes articles but will take a day or two so please be patient. It's not his fault that bureaucracy slows things down!

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