Cardiff could be without a Lord Mayor during the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee celebrations this summer, under plans by the new Labour administration.
As reported yesterday, Labour wants to end more than a century of tradition by splitting the functions of Cardiff’s Lord Mayor between two councillors.
At tomorrow’s annual general meeting of the council at City Hall, Canton’s Labour councillor Cerys Furlong will be appointed to the newly-created role of “chairman of the council”.
Llanrumney’s newly elected Labour councillor Keith Jones will be her deputy. In 2010, Coun Jones, a history teacher, was banned from the classroom for a year after falsifying pupils’ GCSE work.
He said that under pressure he made “an error of judgement at work and took a wrong course of action” which he “deeply regrets”.
Coun Furlong will be paid £23,715 for the job, including her £13,175 councillor’s allowance, while Coun Jones will be paid £18,445.
Coun Furlong said: “The proposal to separate the functions of the chair and lord mayoralty is to enable the lord mayor to focus on the valuable ceremonial and civic duties which is integral to the mayoralty in the public’s eyes.
“Whilst the chair concentrates on the efficient running of council business, expanding the influence of the council and protecting the interests of all members.”
The controversial move has raised questions about the future of the six staff in the council’s protocol department. It is understood the office of Lord Mayor costs the council almost £400,000 a year.
Asked if jobs were under threat, a Labour group spokesman said: “There will be no increase in budget for the roles of lord mayor and chair of the council. The balance of responsibilities will determine where the appropriate resource is required.”
The chair and deputy chair will be responsible for chairing monthly full council meetings, as well as the constitutional and employment conditions committees.
They will not, however, be required to carry out traditional civic duties and will instead focus on improving the running of full council meetings.
Instead, two separate councillors will later this year be appointed Lord Mayor and deputy Lord Mayor. They will be expected to carry out ceremonial duties and represent the city at events, but will not be paid.
Labour last night confirmed it planned to put forward nominations for these roles as well.
Opposition groups are furious at the changes, claiming Labour is politicising the role of chairman and deputy chairman by appointing members of their own group.
Traditionally, Lord Mayor appointments are annually shared between the different groups. But Labour say this has meant Lord Mayors have in the past struggled to get to grips with how to run council meetings.
It is not known how long Coun Furlong and Coun Jones will hold the new posts, but council leader Heather Joyce has indicated it could be until the next elections in 2017. There are also concerns at the length of time it will take to amend Cardiff’s royal charter to allow the title of Lord Mayor to be bestowed on another councillor.
The council needs royal approval from the Privy Council to make the changes but was yesterday unable to say how long this could take. In the meantime, Coun Furlong will carry out both the civic and administrative functions.
During this interim period, which could include Olympic football matches and Jubilee celebrations, she will be known as “chairman” and may wear the mayor’s regalia