A FORMER MP has expressed outrage after a long-serving councillor who was due to become the city’s next mayor was ousted just weeks before a planned inauguration ceremony.

Councillor Dawn Barnett had been due to become Mayor of Brighton and Hove at the end of this month, replacing Councillor Mary Mears who is no longer able to take on the position due to ill health.

However, councillors from the Green Party and Labour have said they will not back her nomination, raising concerns about Cllr Barnett’s suitability for the role due to concerns over “public statements about ethnic minorities and homeless people”.

Sir Andrew Bowden, who served as Conservative MP for Kemp Town for 27 years, described the move as “spiteful and petty”.

He said: “I am disgusted that the Green group have refused to support the nomination of Dawn Barnett for the Mayor of Brighton and Hove.

“Cllr Barnett is respected in the ward she represents. She is an honest, hard-working councillor.

“At 92, my memory is not as it was, but I don’t recall this happening before in Brighton and Hove, even during my 27 years as a member of Parliament.”

The Argus: Cllr Barnett had been due to become the next Mayor of the city towards the end of this monthCllr Barnett had been due to become the next Mayor of the city towards the end of this month

He also expressed sadness at the news of Cllr Mears’ illness, which has prevented her from taking up the position of mayor as initially planned.

“I know that Cllr Mears has great respect for Cllr Barnett and will be upset at the decision to prevent her from becoming mayor,” he said.

The three main political parties on Brighton and Hove City Council traditionally take turns in nominating a mayor for the year, with their term serving a largely ceremonial role.

Sir Andrew called on Green MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas to intervene and ask Green councillors to reconsider their decision.

He said: “It’s a point of principle - here’s a person who has given great service to the city and is widely respected in her ward.

“It’s been established procedure for many years - the ruling party or parties on the council change mayoralty periodically with the opposition.”

Cllr Barnett accused the Greens and Labour of hypocrisy over the decision and said: “They’ve got problems in their own parties which they should sort out - instead of playing silly games, they should be worrying about the state of the city.”

A spokesman for the Brighton and Hove Labour group: “As a City of Sanctuary, and a council working towards us becoming an anti-racist city, we were not convinced of the appropriateness of someone with the track record of Cllr Barnett in terms of public statements about ethnic minorities and homeless people being the first citizen of Brighton and Hove.

“We approached the Conservatives and asked if they’d be willing to put up an alternative candidate that may be better suited to serving as the first citizen of our tolerant and diverse city. They decided that they would prefer to step aside and offer the Mayoralty to the Greens in 2022 and Labour in 2023.”

A spokesman for the Green group said: “We question Cllr Barnett’s suitability for this prominent role that is supposed to be about representing all residents in our diverse city.

“We will work collaboratively with all groups to ensure that there is a new mayoral candidate who can be supported by all councillors.”