HIGHWORTH has a new mayor - but not the one some councillors were expecting.

Usually, the deputy mayor steps into the top job following a quick vote from fellow councillors in a meeting held at the end of the previous mayor’s tenure.

But Julia Bishop’s deputy Coun Lynn Vardy narrowly missed out on a majority after receiving five votes in favour of her appointment and seven against it.

Coun Vardy left the virtual council meeting shortly after the result, saying: “Thank you for all my supporters. At this point in time, I don’t feel I want to stay at this meeting and I think you can all understand that, for various reasons. I wish people well.”

Instead, Coun Paul Newton-Smith put forward a motion seconded by Coun Ken Saunders to nominate Coun Richard Williams to the post.

This received support from eight members of the town council, with three members voting against the idea, so Mr Williams is now in the ceremonial role and now acts as council chairman while maintaining his position of manager of the town’s Saturday market.

Highworth councillors elected Coun Julie Murphy as the new deputy mayor shortly afterwards.

Mayor Williams said: “I’ve never made it a secret that I would consider it an honour to be mayor but I was not expecting to be nominated.

“I was shocked when they put my name forward but I thought why not seize the chance?

“It is unusual for a deputy mayor to then not be elected mayor - it’s happened a couple of times before but normally when it’s an election year.

“I just want the council to carry on working as a cohesive unit, I would hate for that to go away, we can work together to achieve what we can for Highworth.

“It’s been rather quiet so far but I suspect I’ll have to do a fair bit of juggling to balance everything. I’m excited and nervous - the role of council chairman carries a lot of responsibility but without nerves, you don’t do a good job.

“We will have to find new ways to promote Highworth since we can’t host events but the running of the council won’t change apart from the virtual meetings which have gone well despite everyone being new to them.”

Outgoing mayor Coun Julia Bishop raised money for Prospect Hospice during the latter half of her two-year stint. The final total is still being totted up ahead of a cheque presentation to the charity later this month.

She said: “This year was fantastic. I had to cancel four events which was a shame, but still made a reasonable amount of money and there is still a donation left to come in.

“I wish Richard every success in his year as mayor.”

Coun Williams will reveal who he will be fundraising for at the next full council meeting.