Ex Gosport mayor Keith Farr an Honorary Alderman

There was unanimous support for former Mayor and councillor Keith Farr to be made the council’s 40th Honorary Alderman, as Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas reports…

POLITICAL adversaries came enthusiastically together at Gosport Borough Council’s Extraordinary Meeting on Wednesday – October 13 – to approve the award of Honorary Alderman for former mayor and Labour councillor Keith Farr.

In proposing the motion to bestow the honour, Councillor June Cully (Labour Town) spoke of Mr Farr’s dedication as a councillor and his desire to get, “the best for Gosport and its residents”.

Seconding the motion, the Leader of the Council and of the Conservative Group, Councillor Graham Burgess (Lee East) said of Mr Farr that he was, “lively and very passionate in debates”.

Mrs Cully had already noted that Keith Farr was first elected as a Liberal Democrat councillor for Elson ward in 1999. And when he rose to speak the Leader of the Lib Dem Group Councillor Peter Chegwyn (Leesland) took pleasure in repeating this and noted how during his time as a member of the council, Mr Farr had served two political parties and represented three wards.

Mr Chegywn added: “In two ways, he has always been completely consistent. Always done his best for those he represented and was also consistent in being a really nice guy.

“When he spoke, he was independent – you listened because you knew he really cared.”

Section 249 of the Local Government Act 1972  requires that the title of Honorary Alderman should only be given to, “persons who have, in the opinion of the council, rendered eminent services to the council as past members of that council”.

In the case of Keith Farr, Councillor Cully read out a long list of his achievements. Having won Elson ward, he switched to Labour and won Forton ward in 2002, losing the seat in 2008 but returning victorious in 2012. He then moved seat, winning and serving as a councillor for Town ward before standing down for personal reasons before this year’s local elections.

During this time, he served on various boards – such as Regulatory, Economic Development, and Community Boards – and was the Mayor of Gosport in 2015-16.

But, as Mrs Cully made clear and Mr Farr reiterated in his acceptance speech, his eminent service went beyond the usual duties of a councillor, including fighting and getting the Elson bus service restored, filling sandbags at midnight to prevent flooding, and being heavily involved in the Armed Forces Covenant gaining acceptance in Gosport.

The law requires that two-thirds of the councillors must vote in favour of conferring the title of Honorary Alderman but reaching that threshold was not an issue on Wednesday evening: for Keith Cyril Farr, the vote by show of hands was unanimous and the atmosphere good natured.

The award of Honorary Alderman is in recognition of what a former councillor has done. It does not confer any powers though Honorary Alderman can attend civic functions and are permitted to sit with councillors in the chamber – rather than in the public gallery – at meetings of the full council.

In the case of Gosport, they also have roles in support of the council, such as being involved in the judging of the Citizen of the Year.

Photo (top): Honorary Alderman Keith Farr delivers his acceptance speech