Mayor looks back at his year on the ‘Chain Gang’

Mayor Richard Iliffe presenting Peter Barnes with a long service award, after he completed 50 years continuous service with the Council.
Mayor Richard Iliffe presenting Peter Barnes with a long service award, after he completed 50 years continuous service with the Council.

As he nears the end of his year in office, Amber Valley’s mayor says it has been a great honour to serve the community in which he grew up.

Richard Iliffe, 68, says he never imagined when he was growing up in Shipley that he would one day hold such a prestigious role.

But the former bank underwriter says that since being made mayor in a ceremony last May, he has enjoyed the role immensely.

“It has been a wonderful experience - I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” he says.

“It has been a complete honour and a privilege to do the role.”

Mr Iliffe says he has had around 100 different engagements during his time in office so far - sometimes attending multiple places in the same day.

“I’ve been to hospitals and all kinds of charity events - you name it. It can get busy and at times has been tiring.”

“But the craft of it is behind the scenes so it’s up to me to train up the deputy mayor so he can take over the role from me in May.”

Mr Iliffe says he has been well prepared for the role himself by his long service as a borough councillor, but that his year-long role has still been a special achievement.

“I had no idea at all when I was younger that I’d end up doing this,” he says.

“If they were still alive my parents would have been very proud.”

As well as all the civic engagements and functions, a major part of his role is to act as chairman of occasionally tempestuous council meetings.

His term in office has been accompanied by continuing budget cuts, with authorities up and down the land having to find saving after saving just to make the sums add up.

But despite the great financial pressures local authorities are under at the moment, he says he has always been able to rely on his colleagues to conduct themselves properly.

“We are all grown up - it is a debating chamber not a fighting club,” he says.

“If enough councillors agree the decision is taken democratically and everyone accepts that.”

Highlights of the year so far include the Buxton Military Tattoo and the Beating the Retreat event at Chatsworth.

Often accompanied by other Derbyshire mayors and the High Sheriff and Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire, the group self-deprecatingly refer to themselves as the ‘Chain Gang’.

“There is the mayor of High Peak, the mayor of Chesterfield, the mayor of Erewash and me so it can be a bit of a circus at times.

“But we are the only ones who don’t have a limo so we sneak in without anyone noticing us.”

But the mayor is also required to attend more intimate, personal events as well as big public spectacles.

These included going to a 100th birthday celebration for a resident who became an US citizen after marrying an American serviceman.

At the event the lady was presented a letter from US President, Barack Obama.

Coming up in 2017 are a planned visit to the Thornton’s factory in Alfreton, the swimming gala in Matlock and the annual Showmens’ Guild event, as well as a host of other civic receptions.

But, he says, people write requesting the mayor’s presence all the time so you can guarantee a wide variety of engagements will continue into the new year.

“I’ve done seven months so far and I’ve five still to go so we’ll see what happens,” he says.

“It is very varied - you never know what you’re going to get.”

After the role comes to an end in May, Richard will return to the rank and file of councillors and back to his roles on the standards and improvements committees.

He says he has one more year to go at Amber Valley until his term of office ends but, before that, will stand for Derbyshire County Council in May.