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Weaver councillor turns back on deputy mayor role

By UttoxeterPostandTimes.3522974.UttoxeterPostandTimes  |  Posted: March 20, 2014

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A COUNCILLOR has ruled himself out of becoming East Staffordshire’s next deputy mayor - just weeks after it was confirmed he would take over the position from May.

Nathan Birnie said he had backed away from the role due to personal reasons, having been due to become deputy to the mayor-in-waiting Ron Clarke.

It appears he has also given up his chance of becoming mayor in 2015, with the deputy normally taking over the reins.

The former Conservative borough councillor was appointed to the role in controversial circumstances.

Dubbed one of the ‘gang of four’, his decision and that of three fellow Tories – Malcolm Barrett, Robert Harwick and Peter Ball – to quit the party last year and set up the East Staffordshire Independent Group saw the controlling group lose its majority over East Staffordshire Borough Council.

This allowed the Labour councillors to overthrow the then-leader Richard Grosvenor and swoop into power earlier last month.

Councillor Grosvenor was the replaced in the top spot by Labour councillor Julian Mott.

Under the new regime, Councillor Birnie was handed the prestigious role of deputy mayor, with two other independent members filling cabinet positions at Burton Town Hall.

A replacement has yet to be announced, but it is thought unlikely to be another ‘Tory rebel’.

The current deputy mayor David Leese was due to become the next mayor but has been deprived of the role now the Conservatives are no longer in power in East Staffordshire.

Speaking to the Post and Times, Councillor Birnie, who represents the Weaver ward on the authority, said he had reconsidered since putting himself forward for the role.

He said: “I took the decision due to personal reasons.

“It took me a few days to come to the decision and it was a role I was looking forward to but looking back, I thought to myself ‘is this right?’.”

Councillor Clarke, who will take the mayoral chains from current mayor Michael Rodgers from May, said he was surprised by the decision.

He said: “I was surprised but he said it is for personal reasons and I think that it will be for his benefit.”

Councillor Clarke said he didn’t think that one of the other independent members would fill the position.

“I don’t know, but I doubt it.

“But it’s down to anyone basically to put themselves forward,” he said.

It was revealed earlier this month that a Labour councillor would become the mayor of East Staffordshire after the current mayoral year was complete.

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