A LEADING Labour voice at County Hall has slammed the use of the police to transport the Chain of Office to the new chairman of Worcestershire County Council as ‘a pantomime to boost the egos of those involved’.
Councillor Richard Udall (Worcs St Johns), chair of Worcestershire Labour Group, slammed the ‘silly gimmick’ which saw a West Mercia Police motorcycle rider transport the chain the eight miles from outgoing chairman Peter Tomlinson’s (Con, Ombersley) home to new chair Coun Bob Brookes (Con, Droitwich East).
However his comments appeared to put him at odds with his party after Coun Tomlinson revealed the move was agreed by all party leaders ahead of the authority’s chair making meeting.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus restrictions, the meeting to elect Coun Brookes took place online rather than in the chamber at County Hall in Worcester.
As a result West Mercia Police provided a motorbike to transport the chain to ensure it could be worn by Coun Brookes during the remainder of the meeting.
“The chain is of no great monetary value, it does not need police protection, this was a silly gimmick used to promote the office of chairman of the County Council,” Coun Udall said.
“Most of the meeting took place while the chain was in transit. We should not be using the police as a form of courier service, it is not their role, they have much more important things to do.
“This silly stunt took a police officer away from frontline emergency service, for no real benefit and for no justifiable reason.
“The council employ a driver for the chair, who could quite easily have put the chain in the car.
“It was just a bit of theatre, a pantomime, to boost the egos of those involved.
“In future we should keep the Chain of Office at County Hall and not waste the resources of an emergency service by asking them to transport around the county as if it’s part of the Crown jewels.
“I certainly hope the new chair does not require a pizza delivery anytime soon, the police are far too busy on other much more important jobs.”
In response, Coun Tomlinson said: “The handover of the chairman’s chain was an important ceremonial event within the civic year.
“The usual and important public ceremonial handing over the chain was not possible.
“In order to preserve this important tradition and as agreed by all of the party group leaders, the chain was transported from my house to the home of the incoming chairman.
“I would like to thank West Mercia Police, who have a very close working relationship with the county council, for their assistance.
“Both myself and the incoming chairman offered to pay for the time used.
“The handover was ‘covid safe’ and the chain was sanitised as it passed from person to person,” he added.