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‘Mistake’ in cutting role of protector
9:00pm Sunday 20th May 2012 in News
A DECISION to axe the role of Mayor of Worcester’s personal protector “was a bad mistake” and should be reversed, according to a former first citizen of the city.
Councillor Aubrey Tarbuck, who had the role in 2005-06, said it lacks the dignity it once had, three years on from the surprise move.
In 2009, Stephen Baker, the former mayor’s officer, was made redundant as part of a plan to save £21,000 from the budget. The role had dated back 140 years, with the job being to act as a protector for both the mayor and the 18-carat treasure chain he wears.
For the insurance to be valid, there must be someone accompanying the mayor to put off a would-be thief. That means Councillor David+Tibbutt, who has just stepped down from the role after attending 500 engagements, has had to be joined by his wife Jane, or a member of the Guildhall staff. The decision was made by the ruling Conservative group, of which Coun Tarbuck is a member. He said: “What’s clear to me now is that it was a bad mistake. When I was the Mayor of Worcester, Stephen did a great job, he drove me around and sometimes I’d do five engagements in a day.
“He’d also be there to protect me, too. I would hope we could all look back and realise it was a mistake.” Mr Baker, aged 63, said: “I know that, privately, people in the council are admitting it was a bad decision.”
Coun Tibbutt said: “It’s a matter of discussion and debate, but you’d have to bear in mind the costs of running a mayoral car and employing someone against the actual need. “When my wife was not able to be with me I’d have someone from the Guildhall come along to make sure I wasn’t on my own.
“In terms of dignity, I can see the point but I’ve been able to drive myself.” With the budget already set for the year, there is little chance of it being reversed. Coun Andrew Rob-erts, cabinet member for finance, said: “I was the Mayor of Worcester the year after we lost Stephen and we did miss him a lot. The mayor is a figurehead, but in this climate it would be unfeeling for councillors not to make sacrifices and take a hit.”