A symbol of authority or anachronistic bling? Whatever, the Mayor of Mansfield wants his chains back

Opponents say civic jewels should be in a museum and have ordered that they are locked up in council safe

Fashioned from 18ct gold and featuring an array of heraldic symbols, jewels and shields they would not seem out of place adorning the necks of rappers Lil Wayne of 50 Cent.

But the Mayor of Mansfield insists that his ceremonial chains are not items of anachronistic "bling" after being stripped of the historic baubles by a group of Labour councillors.

Supporters of independent former newsagent Tony Egginton accused the party, whose candidates he has defeated in the last three elections, of partisan small-mindedness for voting in favour of the ban.

In what is becoming an increasingly bad tempered and personal spat, Mr Egginton's opponents have now ordered that the civic jewels are locked up in a council safe until the dispute is resolved.

Labour leader Martin Lee however, denied the move was driven by sour grapes.

He said the chains were under the control of a group of councillors who represented the former Nottinghamshire mining town before local government reorganisation in 1974 and that they should be rightfully worn by its Labour chair - not an executive mayor - if anyone at all.

"My preference is that this should be a relic from a bygone age and I think it should be on display at Mansfield Museum and if appropriate made available to the chair of the council," said Mr Lee.

"It is a question of defining what the role should be. Rather than parading around in bling he should really be concentrating on doing the job. You should be judged on how well you can do that rather than how well you can dangle chains around your neck. It is an anachronism," he added.

Mr Egginton, who was previously the president of the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, was a political novice before he became Mansfield's first directly elected mayor on a salary of £65,000 in 2002 ending 30 years of Labour rule on the council.

During that time he has worn the chains - first presented to the town's first citizen in 1891 as a gift by the Duke of Portland - at a number of high profile media events.

These included the civic reception and open top bus ride for double Olympic champion swimmer Rebecca Adlington in 2008 when he presented her with a pair of gold Jimmy Choo shoes.

Mr Egginton, whose official website describes his "strong and charismatic" leadership, said people in the town, especially children, enjoyed seeing the mayor in his regalia.

Supporter Stewart Rickersey, a local businessman who stood unsuccessfully for Parliament as an independent in 2005, supporter, said the Labour ban was a "concerted effort" to embarrass the mayor.

"There is bad blood without a doubt. I have been to the last three or four council meetings and the tone of these meetings is offensive and vitriolic. They describe him as the most expensive ribbon cutter in the country which is a really cheap shot. It has got nothing to do with the more efficient running of the council," he said.

"We have a number of very aggressive people in particular who are just looking to screw the Mayor," he added.

The row has been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman but it is unlikely to be able to act.

Mansfield was one of 16 local authority areas to vote to introduce directly elected mayors in 2002 under legislation introduced by the then Labour Government.  Mr Egginton is not expected to stand at the next election.

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