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Former councillor's attack on merger at mayor making ceremony
WEYMOUTH and Portland's mayor-making ceremony was overshadowed this evening by a stinging attack on the council merger by outgoing mayor Ray Banham.
Mr Banham, who lost his seat in last week's local elections, criticised the merger between Weymouth and Portland Borough Council and West Dorset District Council, claiming the borough was 'losing its identity'.
Millions of pounds have been saved through the two authorities joining forces but there have been job losses and posts have been transferred from Weymouth to new offices in Dorchester, with about 100 more to follow.
Mr Banham gave an emotional speech as outgoing mayor in which he was seen to shed tears after new mayor Kate Wheller took her seat in a ceremony at the Riviera Hotel.
Mr Banham said: “We have to watch our backs because in my opinion we are losing our identity. This borough had hundreds of years of identity and 67,000 people.
"All I hear of late is West Dorset. We are two separate areas - West Dorset, and Weymouth, Melcombe Regis and Portland.”
He went on to criticise councillors who have failed to turn up and support the mayor at events.
Cllr Wheller took over as mayor from Mr Banham, who served for 15 years on the council before losing his Melcombe Regis seat to the borough's first UKIP councillor Francis Drake.
Cllr Wheller, a long-serving Wyke Regis councillor, said she felt 'immensely proud and privileged' to accept the role and outlined her vision for the future.
She said: “I will take every opportunity to promote Weymouth and Portland as a good place to do business.”
Cllr Wheller also focused on the need to make changes in the wake of government cuts, moving away from a reliance on tourism, engineering and the military.
“We must work to encourage companies who rely instead on IT, on the internet, to relocate here. But even more importantly we must help and support home-grown entrepreneurs to become established in our borough,” she said.
Cllr Wheller, whose mayoral escort will be her husband Michael, named her chaplain as the Rev Deb Smith.
She chose the Friendship Club as her mayoral charity. The deputy mayor is Christine James.
The mayor's civic service will take place on Sunday, July 13 at All Saints Church, Wyke Regis at 6.30pm, and is open to the public.
The council's annual meeting, when the election of chairmen and committee members will take place, is on Thursday, June 5 in The Ocean Room at Weymouth Pavilion at 7pm.
Mr Banham and Kevin Hodder will be made Honorary Alderman in a ceremony before the meeting.
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