IT’S been an eventful 12 months for Solihull’s outgoing Mayor, Cllr David Bell.
When reporter Cathrina Hulse caught up with him for a chat, Cllr Bell had just attended his secretary Stella Morris’s retirement party so it was goodbyes all round.
“ Well it’s a bit of a blow with Stella gone and we have yet to get someone else.” he said.
“The strange thing is with Birmingham and Solihull Council that the Mayor becomes the Deputy the year after so you don’t completely fall off the radar. So many people like to see the Mayor but if he is on holiday then that’s when I will step in. Sally and I have had a very good year and we had cleared the decks to make sure we virtually did nothing else. So with the help of Stella and the Mayor’s Committee everything just sort of fell into our laps in some ways. “
An important role for the Mayor is hosting the Mayor’s Ball. This year the event was deemed ‘The Ball for All’ in an attempt to rescue the event from falling numbers in recent years. People from across the borough were invited to purchase tickets and raise funds for Cancer Macmillan.
Cllr Bell continued:”The Mayor’s Ball was struggling in later years- partly because it was too much for a couple of people to do but with a committee it extended and improved it. The evening went like clockwork and tickets were priced reasonably. It takes a long time for old ideas to go. It was a different sort of ball years ago so it was great to see about 100 employees come along and also the WI from Meriden -there’s never been a Mayor in the Meriden ward. The atmosphere was there and the evening raised £14,500 and then with Troop Aid it was good to give them some publicity as well.”
Asked to recall highlights of his term, the former Mayor has to consider his year carefully. “There was the Star and Garter opening with Princess Alexandra and of course on my last day on Monday I met Prince William which put Kingshurst on the map. That was a real coup. Some of the primary schools were enjoyable- they ask such innocent questions and the special schools have been marvellous. We are told there are 600 charities in Solihull and some are struggling. The Donkey Drby for example has 10 people on the committee and six of them are over 80 and still going strong. We have been very impressed with some of these community groups and the people of Shirley came out to support it.”
And what advice would Cllr Bell impart to the new Mayor, Cllr Norman Davies?
“Well he is really very keen and I am sure he is going to be a good ambassador. I think you have to have a bit of stamina and just be yourself and treat everybody as friends and they do the same for you. It’s a wonderful thing to do and a great privilege and I haven’t met a mayor who didn’t enjoy it and we- Sally and I - have thoroughly enjoyed it. Luckily I have only made one gaffe when I went to Shirley Sea Cadets and I may have called them Sea Scouts!”
The traditional chains of office are a marvellous sight but just how much do they weigh?
“They are two pounds in weight but you don’t notice it . But of course it’s quite valuable, all gold. I would estimate its value at about £30,0000 - £40,000. There is someone who keeps an eye it. We have had around 1200 kids in and around the Mayor’s Parlour and we do a little tour. I always say to them when they ask about the chain - if I fall in the swimming baths as long as they got the chain out it doesn’t matter about the Mayor!”