DEPUTY town mayor Cllr Stewart Gardiner told fellow councillors he would not become the next mayor in November unless the town clerk was allowed to appoint a new civic events officer.

Cllr Gardiner was speaking at Wednesday’s Zoom personnel committee, which discussed recruiting a civic events officer to fill a position vacant since July.

A number of councillors suggested delaying recruiting to await the results of a staffing review to see whether there was any spare capacity and in light of changing social distancing rules.

The committee voted to give town clerk Adam Keppel-Green the authority, acting in consultation with the Deputy Mayor, to decide when to begin recruiting, after considering the impact of the latest Covid-19 legislation and guidance.

The decision was in line with a suggestion from Cllr Neil Forbes, a former town mayor, which was supported by current mayor Cllr Andrew Malloy.

Cllr Gardiner said: “Those of you who have been mayor in more recent years had the benefit of a fully appointed individual whose sole responsibility was to deal with your events and organise them.

“When I was last mayor no such position existed. I shared the PA for the town clerk, and I can assure you that, as somebody who had to do all the fundraising I did, I did with a little bit of help from Val; I did it all myself.

“I have not got the capacity to do that. I am now working more hours, so if you want me to be the mayor please reconsider the comments you are making this evening.

“I am speaking very frankly now, and I’m not joking - if you don’t allow the clerk to appoint a civic events officer, certainly for the Christmas period, I will not be the mayor.”

Cllr Elizabeth Beswick said: “It would be prudent to wait until we have done the review of all the other staff responsibilities and roles to see if there is any spare capacity we could use on the civic events officer role.”

Cllr Peter Coan, a former town mayor, said: “Staff working has changed drastically over the last five months, and subject to this [staffing] review there may well be capacity.

“It would be prudent not to recruit a civic events officer at this time, especially in light of the government’s changing policy, but to revisit this at a later date when things change.”

He said recruiting the officer would potentially take the town council’s staff to a total of nine.

He added: “I don’t see much point in employing somebody on £20,000 a year to help raise £15,000 a year for charity.

“We are here to do the best for the town in the most cost-effective way possible.”

The civic events officer resigned with effect from the end of June. The role is part-time, 22.5 hours a week, the equivalent of three days.

A report said if the committee approved recruitment at Wednesday’s meeting it was anticipated a new officer would start around November 16.

The report said: “In the interim the events office and administration staff have provided basic cover for the role.

“There have been few mayoral invitations, but a not insignificant workload involved in the cancellation of the civic ball and initial arrangements for Cllr Gardiner’s.

“Until a new officer is in post there will be little ability to begin planning for Cllr Gardiner’s civic year, beyond arranging mayor-making in November.

“While the ongoing coronavirus restrictions are continuing to impact the role of the town mayor, it is anticipated some fundraising events can be planned if adequate staff resource is available.”