Labour-led Waltham Council votes in Tory mayor

Waltham Forest’s new Conservative mayor has been described as a “decent chap” after being appointed by the Labour-controlled council.

At Waltham Forest Council’s annual meeting last week, Roy Berg – a Conservative representing a ward in Chingford – took over as mayor from Labour’s Karen Bellamy following a vote by the borough’s 60 councillors.

While many local councils only elect civic mayors from the ruling party, Conservative group leader Emma Best said the “apolitical” role in Waltham Forest is often chosen in line with political proportionality of councillors or because of long or outstanding community service.

Previous Conservative mayors of Waltham Forest include Geoff Walker in 2011/12 and Peter Harrington in 2016/17.

Cllr Best said: “We are very grateful to the Labour group for adopting this practice in our borough and believe it is indicative of the ‘grown-up’ politics we are proud of in Waltham Forest where, despite political differences, we will always respect our colleagues and work cooperatively together for residents wherever possible.”

In a speech after taking on the role, Cllr Berg said becoming mayor was “one of the greatest privileges” after serving as a councillor for 13 years.

The former Royal Air Force police officer added that during the year he will fundraise for “events and support” for veterans, ex-service, cadets and young people moving into employment.

Speaking on behalf of the Labour group, Vicky Ashworth said Cllr Berg is a “really decent chap” with a genuine commitment to community safety.

Mayoral duties include chairing full council meetings to ensure business is carried out “fairly and efficiently” while upholding the rights of councillors and the “interests of the community”.

Mayors also promote the interests of the borough, act as a host for official visitors and carry out their duties “in a manner appropriate to the status and tradition of the office,” according to the council constitution.