LIB Dem councillors have accused the Conservatives of politicising the mayoralty after an Andover Conservative first elected in 2011 was chosen in preference to a Romsey Lib Dem with 28 years’ council service for the post of deputy mayor.

It is usual for the deputy mayor to take on the role of mayor but whoever is selected this year will have to be re-elected and selected following borough council elections in May next year.

Romsey councillor Peter Hurst backed fellow Lib Dem Mark Cooper for the job in preference to well-known Andover community worker and St Mary’s ward councillor Iris Andersen.

Mrs Andersen has a multiplicity of roles in local organisations including Andover Carnival royalty ambassador, fundraising for Katie Piper, organising the pancake race, founding the Over 50s Club at King Arthur’s Hall and the Pride of Andover. Despite this Romsey councillors say she needs more time in the role of councillor.

Cllr Hurst said: “The appointment of deputy mayor should be non-political. It should be earned through years of long service as a councillor. That is why a cross-party group of councillors persuaded Councillor Mark Cooper to put his name forward. He has been at TVBC for 28 years and has previously served as joint leader of the council and led the minority group for 11 years.

“By not taking into account the length and depth of the respective candidate’s service to TVBC and voting for Councillor Andersen, the majority of presumably Andover- based Conservatives has effectively politicised Test Valley mayoralty.”

Conservative leader Ian Carr dismissed claims that Mrs Andersen’s appointment was political, saying: “There is no laid down ‘member service’ criterion for councillors’ who wish to stand to be mayor, and there never have been any rules. A member of the Conservative group can be put forward for election, as can a member of the Liberal Democrat group if they so wish.”