COUNCILLOR Nina Shields was elected as the town mayor of Ledbury at the annual meeting of the town council, on May 24.

But she insisted that she should be called chairman instead of mayor, to make "a clean break" with the recent troubled past of the town council.

It is the first time in decades that Ledbury has been headed by a councillor without the title of mayor.

Cllr Jayne Roberts was elected as deputy mayor and made no indication that she would refrain from using the established title.

Cllr Shields was nominated by Cllr Andrew Warmington who said the town council had been through "some very turbulent times", but that Cllr Shields "was able to get on with anyone".

Cllr Shields, after accepting the position of chairman said: "We need to work together now. We need to build a better future."

She said her focus would be "on governance and transparency."

Ledbury Town Council is currently down in numbers by five councillors, because of recent resignations; and only 12 councillors attended the meeting, because Cllr Tony Bradford sent his apologies.

A full Ledbury town council should consist of 18 councillors, and there will be elections in June.

Six members of staff have also left the town council recently, including the long-standing clerk, Karen Mitchell, a temporary clerk and a newly appointed deputy clerk.

There was no-one left on the staff to act as clerk, and no staff member available who could take the minutes.

But Cllr Shields acted as clerk on the night, and Cllr Keith Francis agreed to take the minutes.

But he said: "Councillors must not expect me to do this every time."

He also said: "It is possible for a councillor to act as the minute taker, but it is not best practice. We need to have a minutes secretary, or we can't proceed."

The town council will need to appoint a new clerk and deputy clerk in the near future.

The Reporter understands that attempts were made to secure the service of a temporary clerk from the Herefordshire Association of Local Councils, but the attempts were unsuccessful.

Cllr Shields said the appointment of a new clerk "was something we will need to deal with as a matter of urgency, after this meeting".

Cllr Shields, who was first elected to the town council last year, said she was keen that no matters of importance should "fall through the gaps".

And this could mean extra meetings during the year ahead.

When discussing the new schedule, Cllr Shields said: "I think we have got an extraordinary amount of work to do, to get things running smoothly again."

Some of the councillors who resigned recently had been tasked to deal with specific and urgent tasks.

For example, the former mayor Elaine Fieldhouse had been asked to confirm road closure details for the forthcoming Town Party on July 8, during the Ledbury Poetry Festival, and to seek volunteers to staff barricades; but she is no longer a member of the town council, because she resigned.

Now this and other duties will need to be taken on by remaining councillors.

Committee chairmen were appointed at the meeting in the Community Hall, which was attended by around 20 members of the public.

Cllr Andrew Warmington was elected as chairman of the economic development and planning committee.

Cllr Jane Hopkins was elected as chairman of the environment and leisure committee.

Cllr Andrew Harrison was elected as chairman of the finance and general purposes committee.