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Is Medway's mayor worth £150,000?

He's dangled from abseil ropes, run in a red morph suit and swum across the Medway, but mayor Vaughan Hewett is now caught in a political firestorm over his cost.

Mayor of Medway Cllr Vaughan Hewett
Mayor of Medway Cllr Vaughan Hewett

But Medway’s first citizen has been branded a waste of money by Labour councillors who have revealed that his bill to the taxpayer is £150,000.

The row comes after the Conservative-controlled councillors chose another Tory at Thursday's council meeting - Cllr Josie Iles.

The mayor’s office spent more than £74,000 on staff, £24,000 on parties and events, £1,200 on his ceremonial clothes and £12,000 on a chauffeur-driven car between April 2012 and March this year.

Cllr Tristan Osborne (Lab) unearthed the figures for a second year running as part of a feud about the role being "politicised".

He said it was wrong from a council "presiding over potholed roads", adding: "The cost of the mayoralty remains significantly higher than in many other local authority areas."

In 2009 the ruling Conservatives ended a "points system" where each party had a turn at being mayor. Now the role is chosen democratically, but as there is a heavy Tory majority, every mayor since has come from that party.

Cllr Osborne said: "It is time the Tories stopped this partisan charade of anointing the mayor after a factional vote of Conservative members behind closed doors."

Labour group leader Cllr Vince Maple has written an open letter to the council’s chief executive saying his members will continue to boycott mayoral events, except civic duties like Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Sunday.

Cllr Hewett, replied: "I’ve given my life to the job and I’m contributing a lot to charity. I do it from the heart.

"Isn’t there something in the Bible about letting the person without sin cast the first stone? As far as I’m concerned what I’ve done is second to none and the Labour group just has to look on in envy."

Cllr Hewett has raised about £11,000 for charity this year, taking part in action events including abseils, cycle rides and swimming across the River Medway.

The money raised is an increase of £1,000 on his predecessor Cllr Ted Baker, after Gift Aid was included for the first time.

But deputy Labour leader Cllr Teresa Murray questioned the charity figures, claiming: "Frequently, only £1 from a £25 charity ticket actually finds it way directly to the charity."


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