History has been created in Ryedale with the appointment of the youngest ever chairman of a local authority in the United Kingdom.
Cllr Luke Ives was elected to the prestigious role at Ryedale District Council’s annual meeting on Thursday afternoon.
At the tender age of 22, the Conservative Party member who represents the Norton West Ward is believed to be worthy of a place in the Guinness Book of Records for becoming the youngest person to ever wear the chains of office.
But he may also have another, more unwelcome, place in Ryedale’s history – after losing the “good graces” of his political opponents in record time for a new chairman.
His honeymoon period ended abruptly when he attempted to lay down the law by urging councillors to follow the constitution and ask only one question in full council meetings to ensure business is completed swiftly.
The move comes after recurring criticism over previous years that council meetings drag on longer than they should.
It led to accusations that he was putting a “gagging order” on councillors and charges of being “undemocratic” – both of which he denied.
The fiery exchange marred what had been up to that point a triumphant day for Cllr Ives, who spoke of his pride at his appointment and hopes that it will encourage other young people to become involved in local politics.
“It is a great honour and privilege to be elected as chairman of Ryedale District Council,” he said. “At a time when younger people are disillusioned with politics, I hope my appointment shows that there is a place for everyone in local democracy. The theme for my tenure in office will be a year of youth.”
Born and raised in Norton, Cllr Ives works for a small business in Malton and is due to complete a four-year advanced apprenticeship in Accountancy in August this year.
His consort for the year will be his mum, Louise, who will join Cllr Ives when he hosts civic events and represents the council at ceremonial occasions, among other events and presentations.
“I believe that with subtle changes I can bring a fresh and modern approach to the office, whilst being sympathetic to traditional values and customs,” said Cllr Ives.
One of those traditional customs is to allow councillors to pose questions in Full Council meetings.
Cllr Ives told members he wanted future meetings to become more efficient and, as a result, would ask them to obey the constitution which he interpreted to mean councillors could only ask one question per agenda item.
Instead, he said, they could raise any questions to officers before meetings.
He reasoned: “We obviously have to see the business through at a meeting. If we ask an unlimited amount of questions we could be here all evening.”
Uproar followed his statement however, with Cllr Lindsay Burr, a Liberal Democrat, labelling the move “undemocratic”.
“I understand that you want to run an effective meeting but what you are doing, chairman, is technically putting a gagging order on us as a full council,” she said. “Many chairmen have gone before you and never interpreted the constitution like that.”
Cllr Paul Andrews, an Independent, said: “The reason why we ask questions in open council is to bring matters to the attention of members that may not have been discussed in the report and to get an authoritative answer.”
After listening to the response from councillors, Cllr Ives said he would allow each councillor to ask a question and then a supplementary question to officers at Full Council meetings and, “if time permits,” further questions.
l Cllr Ives’ chosen charity during his year as chairman will be Ryedale Special Families, the Old Malton charity which supports the families of children with disabilities and special needs.