THE next candidate for deputy mayor of Basingstoke and Deane has withdrawn after saying that “party politics” have been at play.

Leader of the Basingstoke Labour group, councillor Paul Harvey, had been nominated after being asked in November. This prompted a debate at the full council meeting on December 14, when the Conservatives brought forward a motion to change the mayoral selection process.

At the moment, a long-serving councillor is asked to be the deputy mayor, who will then become the mayor the year after.

Cllr Harvey, who has been a councillor for 17 years, had been asked to be the deputy mayor and was the first councillor to express an interest in fulfilling the role, but withdrew his name from the running the day after the meeting.

Cllr Harvey said: “It is clearly a political move; the role has been built around public service for more than 100 years and it is an important role to have. It is a real shame that they had to bring politics into this tradition. People value the role of the mayor and it is a privilege to be asked. It is wrong to look at the selection process; it isn’t about who’s face fits the role, and I want no part in it.

“The Conservatives want to shut down anything that doesn’t involve them, and they want to shut out the other voices.”

However, the Conservatives argued that this isn’t about politics at all. Conservative group leader, Cllr Simon Bound, said: “We’ve been looking at the selection process for a while now, I’ve personally been looking at it for more than two years. It is limiting to make it about the length of service, people become councillors later in life, or have just moved into the borough. It’s very unfair and unrepresentative to make it about the length of service.

“It is the opposite of party politics; keeping people in a post for years to become the mayor is playing politics, and, in my opinion, we want the right person at the right time.

“It is a real shame that he [Cllr Harvey] has withdrawn, as the position is about the borough, not the politics.”

The Conservatives said that the issue surrounding the mayoral selection process had been discussed a week before Cllr Harvey was announced as the candidate on November 28.

Discussion will continue and a new candidate will be decided next year.

The current mayor of Basingstoke and Deane is Labour’s Cllr Paul Frankum, and the Deputy Mayor is South Ham ward councillor, Cllr Sean Keating.