A COUNCILLOR has claimed his colleagues are ‘stuck in a rut’ after opting to re-elect the borough’s mayor for a second successive term.

Councillor Martin Hatley (Conservative, Ampfield and Braishfield) retained his position as mayor during an unusual annual council meeting held online this week as participants observed social distancing guidelines.

Cllr Mark Cooper (Liberal Democrats, Romsey Tadburn) was also re-elected as deputy mayor.

The decision to keep both councillors in their roles was made due to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak, and to give the future mayor a ‘fair crack of the whip’.

However, councillor David Coole (Andover Independents, Anna) said the move showed a lack of ‘innovation’ at a time when the authority could be ‘adjusting to the new normal’ posed by the pandemic.

“We seem to be stuck in a rut,” said Cllr Coole during Wednesday’s meeting.

“Covid-19 is going to be around for a year or many years… we should be innovating and adjusting to the new normal and that also applies to the mayorship.”

Cllr Coole praised the council for the work it has done so far in supporting the local community and called for the authority to continue that ‘proactivity’.

He added: “Whilst there is some sympathy in the reasoning behind extending this, I feel we are not being as proactive as we should be.”

Cllr Rebecca Meyer (Andover Independents, Winton), also had questions of her own over the mayor’s re-election.

“I don’t get why we’re going to be doing new chairs and new vice chairs this year if we are not going to b doing a new mayor,” she said.

“I’m not trying to stir up or be a d*ck or anything, do you know what I mean?” she asked.

The move did, however, earn cross party support from elsewhere.

Councillor Celia Dowden (Liberal Democrats, North Baddesley) seconded the motion, proposed by Cllr Phil North (Conservative, Bourne Valley), adding: “I think it is the best decision in the circumstance as well.”

Cllr North argued that electing a new mayor would not be giving both the incumbent and the new mayor the chance to do carry out mayoral functions properly.

“A big part of being Mayor is getting out and meeting people in Test Valley,” he said, “and you’re not able to do that currently.”

Cllr Hately also stressed that he had consulted with other local authorities in the area who were also planning to re-elect their incumbent mayors.

“My wife set up a Whatsapp group with all the other Hampshire Mayors,” he said. “And as of last night the following authorities are doing the same.”

He listed Eastleigh, East Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Havant, Fareham, the New Forest, Romsey town council and Basingstoke as others following suit.

A vote was eventually taken and the motion passed confirming Cllr Hatley and Cllr Cooper as mayor and deputy mayor respectively.

Cllr Coole objected to the motion while Cllr Meyer abstained.

Speaking after Cllr Meyer’s earlier comment, Cllr North quipped: “I think we should probably invest in a bleep machine for the next council meeting.”