MP attacks ‘out-of-date’ council pomp

Local councillors make their way through Ripon market square after Mayor making at the Town Hall.
Local councillors make their way through Ripon market square after Mayor making at the Town Hall.

‘Outdated’ pomp and ceremony surrounding Ripon council has been criticised by the city’s MP, Julian Smith.

Hot on the heels of attacking the council’s lack of diversity – as reported in last week’s Gazette – Mr Smith used the social media site Twitter to tell former Mayor Coun Mick Stanley that people can be put off by the pomp and ceremony which accompanies council events.

“Maybe people processing in chains and purple uniform is one reason why people are put off locally?!”, tweeted Mr Smith.

When contacted by the Gazette Mr Smith defended the comments.

“That kind of formality in the modern world makes it more difficult for people to connect,” he said.

But the MP’s criticisms have provoked a backlash from city council members with Coun Stanley defending the time-honoured traditions of the council.

“It’s the only way of maintaining tradition and authority. If you lose that, you lose all sense of propriety. Most people wouldn’t want to lose the tradition,” said Coun Stanley.

The formal ceremonies have also been defended by the current Mayor of Ripon – Coun Andrew Williams – who said he was “singing from the same hymn sheet” as Coun Stanley.

“I would very strongly speak against abolishing these traditions,” said the Mayor.

“They add a degree of dignity and gravitas to events.”

As well as discussing the ceremonies of Ripon City Council during his Twitter war of words with Coun Stanley on Sunday evening, Mr Smith reiterated his calls for the council to be more representative.

He told the Gazette that the percentage of women in the council is good – 33 per cent in comparison to 23.6 per cent in Parliament – but that more needs to be done.

“We need to be asking how we get more organisations such as youth councils at the head of decision making. We need broader representation, with an 18-year-old or a working parent putting themselves up for election,” said the MP.

Coun Stanley said the council has tried to be more inclusive with evening meetings and monthly surgeries but that young people are too apathetic about politics.

“The real problem is that people don’t understand the importance of politics to their lives. Young people aren’t interested in politics. It’s always been a problem,” he said.

l Ripon City Council has launched a new website – www.riponcity.gov.uk