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Council spent £600 cleaning Durham mayor's robes at London's oldest tailors
A COUNCIL has defended sending a mayor’s robes for a £600 spruce up at London’s oldest tailors, amid claims taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners.
Labour-led Durham County Council sent the Mayor of Durham’s official robes to Ede and Ravenscroft for “cleaning and repair”, claiming no local firm could do the job.
But Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Martin said: “Labour have taken Durham’s residents to the cleaners again.”
His fellow Lib Dem Mark Wilkes says the true cost is £718.18 and is angry a courier service was used and the cost was not agreed by the Charter Trustees, councillors who oversee the mayoralty.
Jeff Garfoot, treasurer to the Charter Trustees, said the cost was £598.48, a courier service was used to “ensure safekeeping” of the £3,000 robes and the payment was authorised by officers of the Charter Trust, in accordance with normal procedures.
Mr Garfoot added: “The robes are an integral part of this traditional and important civic role and it is right that they are kept in good condition.
“The robes were sent to the original manufacturer so that the cleaning and repair work could be done with the specialist knowledge and care required for handling a garment of this age and material.
“We did approach local dry cleaning companies but they advised they did not have the necessary skills and expertise and that the robes should be returned to the manufacturer for repair and cleaning.”
The clash comes amid a spat over Labour making Durham County Council chairman Pauline Charlton the Mayor of Durham despite her living 17 miles outside the city.
Lib Dems claim the 400-year-old mayoralty has been all but abolished, while Labour says the move will save £57,000 in this financial year alone.
The council has also come under fire over a so-called clothing allowance available to its chairman and vice-chairman totalling £12,860, mockingly dubbed the Geordie Armani by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Councillor Wilkes said: “First they scrapped the Mayor in all but name by merging the position with the chairman of the council and now the ultimate insult to Durham residents – after hiding away a £12,860 clothing allowance for decades from the people of Durham, Labour have blown £660 (sic) of taxpayers’ money on cleaning a coat.”
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