A DEBATE has broken out after a scheme that recognised the services of former Cotswold District councillors was axed.

The council's deputy leader has called the Honorary Alderman Scheme "outdated" and sent the "wrong message to the public", while the leader of the opposition group said it provided the council a "vast amount of free knowledge".

At the latest full council meeting held on June 3 councillors voted to abolish the scheme.

It is a scheme that has been in place since the 1980s and recognised former councillors for their service to the council and the local community over the years. For example in 2007, six former councillors were given the honour while in 2015, 12 honorary aldermen were appointed.

The proposition put to councillors at the latest meeting was to: "Make no further appointments under its Honorary Alderman scheme and therefore ask officers to remove this scheme from its constitution.

"Allow existing holders of this honorific to continue to use it if they so wish, but not provide any special recognition or treatment for them that is not offered to other former members of the council."

It went through on a tight vote, 18 for, 15 against with one abstention.

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Mike Evemy, deputy leader of Cotswold District Council, said: “Our administration believes that the Honorary Alderman scheme isn’t compatible with our modernisation agenda, was outdated and sent the wrong message to the public.

”Cotswold District Council was one of a shrinking number of councils to award this status.

"We do not think that awarding a select group of former councillors a gong is a good use of our time, particularly as we begin to build a recovery for everyone from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Councillors stand for election to serve their communities and improve their local area, not for personal reward.

"For those whose contribution is exceptional, the national honours system allows councillors to be recognised.”

Councillor Richard Morgan, leader of the opposition Conservative group, said: “The Lib Dems control Cotswold District Council and set the agenda so it is their right and their prerogative to abolish this scheme if they so wish.

"However, it should be pointed out that the scheme costs the taxpayer virtually nothing, yet provides the council with a vast amount of free knowledge, free experience, free engagement and frankly free consultation with former representatives (of all political persuasions) who love and care about the Cotswolds.

"For this reason, it is a pity that the Lib Dems chose to abolish the scheme rather than modernise or update it because the return on investment to taxpayers is notable.

"In addition, we were surprised that this item (was) on the agenda and debated at our first meeting for nearly three months.

"It would have perhaps been more valuable to discuss the community response to Covid-19 or how we could support our small business owners through the pandemic, but the Lib Dems set the agenda and they obviously felt that these items about the internal workings of Cotswold District Council were more important.”