Row breaks out over Stuart’s mayoral bid

A row has broken out after the man expected to be Bexhill’s next mayor claimed he was asked to consider standing down from the race.

In March, it was agreed that deputy mayor Stuart Earl would take on the mayoral role for 2015/16 with Simon Elford as deputy, following a tradition of the deputy mayor taking over from the mayor the following year.

But last week Mr Earl received an email from the clerk of the Bexhill Charter Trustees saying ‘the Conservative group’ had decided to nominate an alternative candidate for mayor – Labour’s Maurice Watson.

Clerk Derek Stevens said the nomination would mean a vote at Bexhill’s mayor-making ceremony on May 28 – in front of invited dignitaries and personal guests of Mr Earl.

Of the 18 members sitting on the Bexhill Charter Trustees, 13 are Conservatives.

In his email to Mr Earl, Mr Stevens said of the vote: “...I guess we can both predict pretty accurately which way it will go.”

He asked Mr Earl to “..let me know if you wish to continue as is, or withdraw in advance of the meeting.”

But Mr Earl has refused to step aside, accusing his fellow trustees of being ‘spiteful’.

He said: “I have worked hard for the town for many, many years and was looking forward to representing the town. It just seems spiteful.

“They have invited ex-mayors, mayors, personal guests and it will be embarrassing for me in that respect.

“But I cannot stand down on principal. It is not right.”

Mr Earl added he had not been given a reason for the change of heart.

Trustee Martin Kenward said it was an ‘unwritten rule’ to elect a mayor who has never served before, with three exceptions in 40 years.

He said:“In 1976 and 1983 Cllr Carpenter served as mayor, knowing he was a perfect gentleman, I would think there had to be a good reason for this. In 2001 and 2012 Cllr Gadd served as mayor, because the 2011 mayor, and the next in line were both from a small political group and their leader did not wish to have two members serving as mayor and deputy at the same time.

“The next in line subsequently served as mayor in 2013. The current mayor also served in 1993, he was selected as there was no one who had not previously served as mayor wishing to be nominated, he was the longest serving past mayor. A year ago Simon Elford was put forward as deputy mayor, Stuart Earl, who had previously served as mayor was also put forward against Simon. The vote, a secret ballot, proved in favour of Stuart Earl, breaking the 40-year-old tradition of fairness and equality regardless of political background. At the March meeting, although the minutes state Stuart Earl was unanimously agreed, in fact there was not a vote as such, just no opposition to it.

“Since March there has been an election where the make up of councillors has change. Unfortunately, in politics there is always a chance of this happening which can and often does change things.”