New Crawley mayor selected for upcoming year

New mayor Raj Sharma with deputy youth mayor Shelly Sharma
New mayor Raj Sharma with deputy youth mayor Shelly Sharma

The new mayor of Crawley has donned his chain of office and shared his personal motto – unity in diversity.

With the council chamber packed with family and well-wishers, Raj Sharma, who last held the post in 2016/17, said it was an honour to do so again.

Raj Sharma with new youth mayor �Leon Mukazi

Raj Sharma with new youth mayor �Leon Mukazi

The role usually goes to the previous year’s deputy, in this case Tahira Rana, but she chose not to step up.

Even if she had, she would have faced a battle.

Rather than sitting back and letting tradition run its course, the Conservatives tabled their own candidates for mayor and deputy – Bob Burgess and Carol Eade.

Both were previous mayors but, with Shahzad Malik voted in as deputy, neither got the chance to serve again.

New deputy mayor Shahzad Malik

New deputy mayor Shahzad Malik

Mr Sharma said: “It is indeed a privilege to be the mayor of any town but to be the mayor of Crawley twice and so soon is an outstanding honour.”

The youth mayor and deputy were named as Leon Mukazi and Shelly Sharma.

When it came to selecting his cabinet, there were no surprises from leader Peter Lamb.

Alongside his deputy Peter Smith were Brenda Smith, Geraint Thomas, Chris Mullins and Ian Irvine, taking on responsibility for planning and economic development, public protection and community engagement, environmental services and sustainability, wellbeing, and housing.

Raj Sharma receives the chain of office

Raj Sharma receives the chain of office

There was some heated discussion surrounding the naming of chairs and vice-chairs for the various committees.

Crawley’s elections were a close-run thing, with 19 seats for Labour and 17 for the Tories. Opposition leader Duncan Crow felt that such a strong Tory presence should mean more top posts for his party.

While it was agreed before the meeting that Richard Burrett would be vice-chair of the governance committee and Jennifer Millar-Smith vice-chair of the audit committee, none of the other Tory candidates were selected.

The meeting included some moving tributes to former councillor Doug Murdoch, who died in April, aged 80.

cabinet members Chris Mullins, Peter Smith, Peter Lamb, Geraint Thomas and Brenda Smith

cabinet members Chris Mullins, Peter Smith, Peter Lamb, Geraint Thomas and Brenda Smith

Mr Murdoch was described as a lovely man, who really cared for people, a real servant to the town, who wanted Crawley to be the best town in the UK.

His wife asked for any donations to be made to the renal unit at Brighton University Hospital.