Council veteran Billy Webb elected Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough’s first non-unionist mayor took up the post at the council’s annual meeting on Tuesday evening.
Councillor Billy Webb MBE, a Macedon representative, is the first Alliance member to hold the chain of office in the borough since local authorities were amalgamated in Northern Ireland in 2015.
His deputy is DUP Cllr Stephen Ross, Threemilewater.
Alliance has held neither of the top two offices since John Blair, now an MLA, was Deputy Mayor in 2015-16. The party has seven representatives on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.
The out going first citizen is Ulster Unionist Antrim Cllr Jim Montgomery and out going Deputy Mayor is Glengormley SDLP Cllr Noreen McClelland.
To comply with social distancing, the annual meeting took place for a second consecutive year in the Theatre at the Mill at the Mossley Mill complex in Newtownabbey.
A councillor for 24 years, Billy, a retired civil servant was Deputy Mayor of the legacy Newtownabbey Council in 2000/01 and was elected the borough’s first non-unionist Mayor in 2011.
He was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2015 for services to local goverment and the community.
Cllr Webb said: “I am very pleased and honoured and very thankful for the Alliance team to allow me to go forward to be Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey.
“These are challenging times coming out of the pandemic but it is an opportunity to acknowledge all those who have helped us through it. The voluntary sector in particular and business sector.
“Communtiy groups around my electoral area in Macedon have come together and worked collaboratively and sought out those who needed help. It has been quite an achievement. So much good has come out of it and I would like to see it carried on.”
Cllr Webb, who is vice-president, of the Northern Ireland Hospice, went on to say that he has chosen the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice which has experienced financial “difficulty” as a result of inability to fundraise during Covid and Women’s Aid as his chosen charities.
He also expressed concern over a reported increase in domestic violence during the pandemic and commented on work with the Women’s Aid charity, which has an office in Antrim, through his role on the board of Ulster Garden Villages.
In a break with tradition, the new Mayor will not have a chaplain.
“It is my view that politics and religion should be separate. I proposed at the outset of the current council that prayers and Bible readings be heard in a separate room privately and taken out of Standing Orders.
“Bible reading and prayer is in Standing Orders so I will ask the group leaders to nominate one of their members to to do a Bible reading and prayer in rotation. I did this when I was Mayor of Newtownabbey. ”
He said that the council’s Independent member Cllr Michael Stewart will be included in the arrangement.
Meanwhile, the new Deputy Mayor said that he is looking forward to working with community groups and businesses.
Cllr Ross added: “I feel I need to expand myself to other parts of the borough. I am looking forward to getting out to see more people.”
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter
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