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Brighton & Hove: New Mayor Takes Office - But There's A Row Over New Deputy

Friday, 26 May 2023 06:30

By Sarah Booker-Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter

Mayor Jackie O'Quinn and Deputy Mayor Mohammed Asaduzzaman

Brighton and Hove’s new mayor praised the city that she has called home for almost 30 years for being such a friendly and welcoming place.

Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn took up the ceremonial role of mayor after being elected unanimously at the annual council meeting at Brighton Town Hall today (Thursday 25 May).

She said:

“I made my home in Brighton and Hove some 28 years ago and never imagined that I would one day become mayor of the city that I had quite fallen in love with. What an honour and a privilege.

“I loved – and still do – walking around the streets of Brighton and Hove and seeing all the stunning architecture from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods.

“So much to admire and be entranced by as so many others are who visit the city or live in it.

“I also never imagined that I would be able to walk down the main streets or along the seafront and bump into friends and acquaintances.

“I thought that Brighton was too big for that – but I was wrong. It’s such a friendly and welcoming city that you quickly feel at home here and as if you belong.

“How lucky are we to live in this vibrant and dynamic city where the arts and culture thrive and are available at every turn, thus securing an international reputation for excellence in this area.

“The Brighton Festival, Fringe Festival and Pride attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city every year and help to create the sense of fun and of cultural diversity that we are so famous for.

“The Open Houses during the festival are also a huge hit with people who flock to see them and also to have a good look inside other people’s houses – fascinating!

“It’s not just the arts and culture either. We now have our amazingly talented football team, Brighton and Hove Albion, going into the UEFA Europa League.

“This is a truly inspiring situation as Brighton and Hove Albion, formed in 1901, have never played in a European match before.

“It shows how far they have come, especially since having their new home at the Amex, which only ever got built because of the persistence of local politicians and with the help of (former Labour Deputy Prime Minister) John Prescott.

“So, huge congratulations to the team and their manager – and I’d like to speak for the city in saying how incredibly proud we are of them.”

Councillor O’Quinn announced her mayor’s charities

  • the RSPCA in Patcham
  • RISE, the domestic abuse survivors’ charity
  • Impact Initiatives, which helps people to reach their full potential
  • Together Co, a befriending and loneliness support charity

Peter Wells from the Inter-Faith Contact Group will be the mayor’s chaplain and her consort for the year will be her daughter Rachael.

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There was a political bust up over the choice of deputy mayor as Labour broke with recent convention.

Having won a landslide local election victory three weeks ago, the party has put an end to sharing the ceremonial role with its political rivals.

At Brighton and Hove City Council’s “annual council” meeting at Brighton Town Hall, newly elected Labour councillor Mohammed Asaduzzaman was chosen as deputy mayor for the coming year.

The new Conservative leader, Councillor Alistair McNair, said that the council should keep the “rotation” of mayors across the three main parties – Labour, Tory and Green.

But the convention has been challenged over the past few years.

From 2020 to 2022, Labour councillor Alan Robins served two terms after most of his first year was spent either in lockdown or with social distancing measures in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic – and the council held its meetings online rather than in person.

Former Conservative councillor Mary Mears was his deputy but was not well enough to take over as mayor a year ago.

The Conservatives boycotted the mayor-making last year after Labour and Green councillors thwarted their proposed replacement for Councillor Mears – long-serving fellow Tory councillor Dawn Barnett.

Former Green councillor Lizzie Deane stepped in and became mayor instead, completing her term after stepping down as a councillor.

Councillor Asaduzzaman was nominated by one of the new Hangleton and Knoll ward councillors, Faiza Bagoth, resulting in a mayor and deputy from the same party.

She said that Councillor Asaduzzaman was one of a talented group of new councillors from a Muslim and Bangladeshi background, with a degree in political science and experience of working in the Bangladeshi Ministry for Irrigation and Water.

In the 30 years that he has lived in Brighton and Hove, Councillor Asaduzzaman has carried out various race-related and scrutiny roles with Sussex Police.

His work had been recognised with awards from the Home Office and an invitation to Buckingham Palace.

Councillor Bagoth said:

“As a councillor for Hollingdean and Fiveways, he is passionate about equalities, diversity, fairness and inclusion. He has been selfless and brave to achieve what he believes in.”

After the formal nominations, Conservative councillor Samer Bagaeen stepped up and reminded councillors that his party had supported Councillor Robins’s two-year mayoralty.

Councillor Bagaeen said:

“With diversity in mind, having spent the best part of the past four years being the only BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) councillor on Brighton and Hove (City Council), I think it’s a pleasure to put myself forward as deputy mayor.”

Deputy Conservative leader councillor Anne Meadows seconded his nomination.

The council’s legal chief Abraham Ghebre-Ghiorghis said that there was no requirement for parties to “take turns” as mayor but it had become the convention while there was no party in overall control of the council.

Labour and Green councillors voted for Councillor Asaduzzaman, as did Independent councillor Peter Atkinson.

The Conservatives voted for Councillor Bagaeen and Brighton and Hove Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh abstained, saying that she “did not believe in a mayor or first citizen”.

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