Seven councillors have been awarded a local authority’s highest accolade after collectively serving their communities for 188 years.
The final meeting of Richmondshire District Council ahead of it being superseded by the unitary North Yorkshire Council on April 1 was reserved to bestow honorary alderman and alderwoman titles on long-serving elected members considered to have provided eminent service to the local authority.
In the district authority’s 49-year history the title has been rarely conferred and in 2019 it emerged the council only had six honorary aldermen.
While the title has only previously been handed to former councillors, it was agreed at a meeting in December, similarly to other district councils, that long-serving members should be recognised ahead of the council being abolished.
Despite many attendees dismay at the end of the council, an upbeat ceremony at the authority’s Mercury House headquarters in Richmond was led by the authority’s chairman Councillor Lorraine Hodgson, who presented the elected members with certificates.
The meeting, which numerous elected members did not attend, heard the authority’s longest serving member was Independent councillor Paul Cullen, who had successfully stood for election ten times on the Lower Swaledale and Hipswell wards.
Conservative councillor for Croft and Middleton Tyas Campbell Dawson was awarded for his 32 years service, while Independent Colburn and latterly Scotton councillor Helen Grant was honoured for her terms on the authority from 1990 to 2003, from 2007 to 2011 and from 2015 to 2023.
The former leader of the council, Conservative councillor for Yoredale ward Yvonne Peacock, and its three-time chairman, Liberal Democrat Richmond member Clive World, received the honour for their 24 and 28 years’ service, respectively.
Accepting the awards, several councillors expressed sadness that the district council would cease to exist, but spoke of their pride for the work of the authority’s staff and efforts of fellow councillors on behalf of residents.
Coun World said he hoped legislation would be introduced to enable councillors to attend meetings virtually in the event of poor weather, highlighting the difference between Richmondshire, from which members have to travel across a 1,319sq km area, and small boroughs in London, around which council rules had been shaped.
Other members to be recognised included Independent councillor Pat Middlemiss for more than 20 years service on the council and Richmond member Councillor Stuart Parsons, who was first elected to the authority in 2002.
Coun Parsons said: “I am really really sorry to everybody here that we failed to stop North Yorkshire Council coming into being.
“We do some fantastic things in this authority and hopefully will continue to do so under a name that doesn’t really mean anything and under an organisation which hasn’t demonstrated any democratic accountability.”
As the authority is being dissolved it remains unclear what privileges, such as the right to attend civic functions of the successor unitary council, the traditional honour will bring.
However, councillors Peacock and Parsons, who are both elected members of the incoming unitary authority will not be entitled to be addressed as alderman or alderwoman or to attend or take part in any civic ceremonies of that council in those capacities.