Cllr Mohammed Nawaz (Kempston Central & East, Labour) has been elected unopposed as the new speaker of Bedford Borough Council yesterday (2 May).
His duties for the new municipal year include presiding over council meetings, upholding the council’s constitution and becoming ‘the conscience of the council’.
The speaker also carries out a ceremonial role to represent the council on formal occasions and at external functions, usually in partnership with the Mayor.
Cllr Nawaz said: “It is an honour and privilege to be elected Speaker of Bedford Borough Council. I look forward to meeting lots of Bedford Borough residents over the course of the next year.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to my family, friends, and a special thanks to my wife,” he said.
“They have always supported me, throughout my time as a councillor.”
Cllr Nawaz was nominated by Labour Group leader, councillor Sue Oliver (Kempston North Ward).
“Within the Labour Group, he has held the roles of whip, very successfully, and has been practising his chairing skills as our group chair for the last year or so,” she said.
“He was also chair of audit and standards committees from 2019 to 21, councillor Nawaz has always been willing to take on responsibility and proves that he’s able to learn from each and every experience.”
Cllr Carl Meader (Labour, Kempston South Ward), who seconded the nomination, said he was “delighted” that councillor Nawaz is going to be the speaker in the coming year.
“I have known Mohammed for many years, both as a Borough Councillor and a Kempston Town Councillor, ” added Cllr Meader
“He is very sociable and amenable, and just an all-round nice guy which will stand him in good stead. I’m delighted Mohammed will be Speaker for the coming year and I know he will represent this council to the best of his ability,” he said.
LibDem cllr Wendy Rider (Brickhill Ward) was elected as deputy speaker.
In proposing a vote of thanks for the outgoing speaker, councillor Jane Walker, Conservative Group leader, councillor Graeme Coombes, congratulated her on her ability to control the councillors remotely behind the screen as this was probably a big challenge.
“Yet you managed to control all of us,” he said.
Liberal Democrats Group leader, councillor Christine McHugh (Goldington Ward) said councillor Walker had made the virtual format her own.
“As we have grown into these online meetings, councillor Walker has grown into them as well, and has really done a great job,” she said.
Councillor Walker (Clapham Ward) thanked everyone for their kind words and also thanked those who helped her over her term, especially with the IT.
“My main memories have to be of the virtual full council meetings. As everyone said the first one was a huge shock to the system,” she said.
“We had a few internet problems initially, but we got there.
“My funniest memory of that time though was when councillor Nawaz told me at a full council briefing that I needed a new camera on my computer because he said I was fuzzy.
“Luckily because we were all working from home, I had my techie son there and I said to him help.
“He checked all the settings and he said ‘mum, have you got a cloth?’,
“He took a cloth and wiped the lens, it was just the camera lens, it was dusty,” she said.
by John Guinn Local Democracy Reporter
and Bedford Independent’s Paul Hutchinson