A familiar face takes on the Mayoral chains

Morpeth Mayor Alison Byard and her husband Steve, who will serve as her Escort. Picture by Ken Stait.
Morpeth Mayor Alison Byard and her husband Steve, who will serve as her Escort. Picture by Ken Stait.

A new Morpeth Mayor has been elected by town councillors.

Coun Alison Byard took the chains of office at the annual meeting of Morpeth Town Council last week.

Your Mayor and town council will do our best to ensure that your views are heard and that the best decisions are taken for the benefit of the town.

Mayor Alison Byard

And she is well aware of what the post will entail, having served as Deputy Mayor for the past year and Mayor’s Escort during the previous 12 months.

She said: “I am proud and honoured to be elected Mayor of Morpeth and will perform my duties to the best of my ability.”

Coun Byard said she is looking forward to civic events such as Meet The Mayor, the Christmas lights switch-on and the Mayor’s Ball, as well as taking part in celebrations for the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, including an event in Runnymede to be attended by the Queen.

However, she began her year’s service by paying tribute to the work of outgoing Mayor Nic Best.

“Coun Best will be a very hard act to follow,” she said.

“He has been a hardworking, popular and highly visible Mayor, who was regularly seen walking from place to place, wearing his Mayoral chain.

“His Mayoress Joan Howard has been a warm and smiling presence at civic events and has helped to make a significant contribution to fund-raising for his Mayor’s charity, the Samaritans.

“I am very touched that Nic and Joan are going to do a joint sponsored weight-loss in aid of my charity.”

Coun Byard’s chosen charity is the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), and she will be completing a fund-raising sponsored abseil in Cathedral Gorge, Coniston, with Morpeth Rotary President Rhona Dunn in July.

She said: “The Great North Air Ambulance provides an essential life-saving service in a rural county like Northumberland. It receives no public funding and each helicopter flight costs around £2,500.

“I hope you will support me in trying to raise as much money as possible for this essential service.”

The Mayor spoke of her respect for the “very well run and professional council”, giving a special mention to Town Clerk Gillian Turner and Administration Officer Edna Whittle, who are both to retire at the end of the year.

And she thanked fellow councillors for their support.

“Morpeth is fortunate to have so many long-serving and knowledgeable councillors of all political parties, who have been very generous in giving me their advice, encouragement and friendship, for which I am most grateful,” she said.

“All of the 15 town councillors are passionate about fulfilling the council’s mission statement, which is ‘to make Morpeth a better place to live, work and play’.”

Coun Byard said she hopes to make the council more accessible to children and will be inviting all of the first schools to visit the Mayor’s Parlour and to raise funds for her charity.

And she appealed to residents to back the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan in a public referendum in the autumn.

“Those of us who love Morpeth don’t want it to change out of all character, but it wouldn’t do to preserve the town in aspic either,” she said.

“Your Mayor and town council will do our best to ensure that your views are heard and that the best decisions are taken for the benefit of the town.”

The Mayor’s Escort will be her husband Steve, and she has appointed Marian Bell, who is chaplain at St George’s Park and Northgate hospitals and Eucharistic Minister at St Robert’s Church, the Mayor’s Chaplain.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt will be the Deputy Mayor.