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Row in council chamber over choice of new chairman
A NEW chairman has been voted in at Worcestershire County Council - leading to a row about "political bias".
Councillor Pam Davey, a veteran Conservative, has become only the second woman in history to take on the popular ceremonial role at County Hall.
Her appointment was voted through amid farcical scenes in a full council meeting, with the Labour Party saying so many politicians are badly behaved they wanted an ex-prison worker to do it instead.
The chairman, who gets use of a personal driver and £20,000 Jaguar, spends the year representing the council to the wider public and holding the court at meetings.
The opposition Labour group said Councillor Joe Baker, who used to work in a high-security prison for dangerous inmates in Scotland, would be ideal to take on the role for the next 12 months instead.
The controlling Conservative group insisted it should be Cllr Davey and voted Labour down, leading to ugly scenes in the chamber.
Labour also tried to make Cllr Baker the vice-chair, but that was then refused, and said it was time to dump the use of the Jaguar XF, but it failed.
Councillor Peter McDonald, Labour group leader, said: "Joe is not wet behind the ears, he's been in politics 30 years and is a former lecturer in psychology and sociology in Scotland, as well as being a former prison officer.
"Those skills in understanding people and being able to communicate with them are extremely valuable, he would listen to us and certainly make meetings more enjoyable than they are now.
"He knows how to control rowdy inmates, he'd be ideal. He'd also take away the Jaguar straightaway."
Conservative councillors refused to get into a debate and called for a vote, which they won by 34 to 16.
Cllr Davey, a Droitwich councillor, takes over from Councillor Gordon Yarrington, a fellow Conservative.
Cllr Yarrington told the chamber it had been "a great honour" to do the role.
She becomes only the second women to do the job after Mary Drinkwater, a statistic Liberal Democrat Councillor Tom Wells called "outrageous".
A Lib Dem bid to get their group leader, Councillor Liz Tucker, elected as chairman also failed.
The chairman attends around 200 public events a year as the council's ceremonial figurehead, and during meetings at County Hall do a role similar to that of the speaker in the House of Commons.
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