CALLS are being made to change the rules at Worcester City Council - in a bid to prevent any embarrassing repeats of the 'Mayorgate' saga.

The city's lone Green politician says it is time for a permanent change to prevent anyone becoming the mayor based on backroom deals or pure personal ambition.

Councillor Neil Laurenson wants the entire process changed - and is suggesting that selecting a mayor based on seniority could be the ideal solution.

Your Worcester News can reveal how Cllr Laurenson is planning talks with the council's legal expert over altering the constitution - and the idea is gaining popularity from other politicians, who say it is worthy of consideration.

While the change would be unprecedented in Worcester - where each year the mayor is currently decided ad-hoc - other councils have routinely selected their first citizens based purely on length of service.

Cllr Laurenson's call follows the saga of Mayor of Worcester Councillor Alan Amos, who quit Labour four weeks ago before voting in a new-look Tory administration 48 hours later.

On the same night he was voted in by the Conservatives as city mayor, which led to fierce criticism about the historic role being denigrated.

Cllr Laurenson said: "We need to do something to stop this whole business ever occurring again.

"Across the country there are different ways of choosing a mayor, one way is based on seniority so it goes to the longest serving councillor.

"I don't want a repeat of what's gone on and if we could change the constitution it would be one positive out of this."

In Lancaster, for example every December the longest serving councillor is sent a letter from the chief executive inviting them to become the new mayor from May.

Scores of other councils do the same, and in Blackpool the system has been used since 1974.

Oxford City Council follow the same example, while in York the position is shared fairly in proportion to the number of councillors from each party.

In York each year the parties get one point for each councillor, and the party with the highest score can nominate any politician with at least four years service.

The mayor's score is then reset to zero, ensuring the position is shared around.

Some town halls base it on unbroken consecutive years in office but many others take into account a councillor's total time served, so they are not punished for taking time out or losing their seat.

Councillor Liz Smith, Worcester's lone Liberal Democrat, said: "It's an interesting idea, I would welcome a firm policy which would seem to be fair."

Labour group leader Councillor Adrian Gregson said he was "open minded" about any suggestions, while Tory Councillor Marc Bayliss, the city's deputy leader, said: "I don't mind considering the issue but I think total service is what should matter."

TOP FIVE LONGEST SERVING COUNCILLORS (based on total time served)

Roger Berry - 38 years (71-76, 80-95, 96-current)

Derek Prodger - 32 years (82-current)

Robert Rowden - 23 years (91-current)

Adrian Gregson - 22 years (92-current)

Liz Smith - 21 years (90-00, 03-current)

* If former city mayors were taken off the list, Adrian Gregson would be first in line, because the other four featured above have all held the historic office once before.

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