Andover’s outgoing mayor has spoken about his two years in office and his hopes for the town as he stepped down last night (May 27).

Councillor Richard Rowles was elected mayor in 2019, and reappointed to the position in 2020. Yesterday, he stepped down from the role as Cllr Barbara Long was elected in his stead.

He told the meeting that he wants to see an end to the ”pedantry that prevents good things happening in our town” and called for spending of the council’s reserves.

He said: “We must stop the nonsense that belongs on the TV Series Yes Minister, stop being petty about the details and let our officers do their job. We must disenthrall ourselves from the quiet dogmas of the past, we must think anew, and we must act anew, and together we can not only help our town survive, but help it thrive.”

Following the election of Cllr Long as mayor, Cllr Rowles was invited to give his review of his time in office.

Addressing the group of councillors and the few members of the public able to attend the in-person meeting, he said it was important for the town to have a mayor, saying: “I have to say when the then Cllr [Katherine] Bird proclaimed herself to be the mayor, as was her right under the Local Government Act. I was very concerned to say the least, not only because I fundamentally believe that people should be considered equal, but because I didn’t think it would make a difference.

“I was wrong… Having a Mayor of Andover is an important role in our Town reclaiming its rightful place”.

He said the pandemic had forced him to make “difficult decisions” prior to the Coronavirus Bill allowing virtual meetings, saying: “I am 100 per cent confident that together we made the right decision to suspend meetings, and it was the right decision to close the office and keep it closed.”

He said he was “saddened” by the response from national government to parishes, in particular not extending the provisions of the Coronavirus Act that allowed virtual meetings.

Cllr Rowles said: “There has been a total lack of support for parish councils from the government during this crisis which has meant that we have been left high and dry on a number of issues, not least the organisation of this very meeting which because of the inept decision making processes in No 10 meant we have been forced to exclude many members of the public who wished to attend this meeting.”

He referred to the grievance process and subsequent shutdown of the council, as well as resignations of councillors following their election in 2019.

Cllr Rowles called for a round of applause for staff, saying: “Things reached the point where all our employees had to be put on leave to protect them, and the town council on a corporate level. Our officers soldiered on as best they could.

“If our officers instruct us that they do not have the time or experience to complete a task, then that task should not be assigned to them by full council or by committee, further to this, outside expertise should be sought at their request, and it should not be ignored, they should not be treated like minions in some kind of servitude.”

One of his final requests was for the council to start spending money from its reserves, saying: “It is our duty to help local businesses by responsibly spending that money. By spending the £100k that's been sat in the bank for five years for allotment improvements and speed indicator signs”.

Speaking to the Advertiser after the meeting, he said that “many people make assumptions about who a mayor is, and what kind of person they are, without any understanding whatsoever of the huge amount of work it is.”

Though he is no longer mayor of Andover, Cllr Rowles remains a town and borough councillor.