Luton's new Mayor elected

[The Luton News: Thursday, November 13th, 1919]

The Mayoral election at Luton on Monday marked the conclusion of a civic year which has had no equal in the history of the borough, and in the ceremony of electing the new Mayor there were several things to remind people of some of the unhappy things which have happened during the past few months.

For one thing, the retiring Mayor was not present to hand over his charge to his successor, and this in itself would have been sufficient to mark the occasion as one of no ordinary character.

Councillor Arthur Bennett AttwoodThen the ceremony of investing Councillor Arthur Bennett Attwood JP [pictured right] with the rank of chief citizen of the borough had to take place at the Courthouse, as there is now no Town Hall or Council Chamber.

In addition, the various speeches which were delivered of necessity had some regard to the position in which the town has been placed by the unhappy occurrence of July last, and there was also read from the retiring Mayor [Henry Impey] in which he formally resigned his membership of the Council, which will result in a by-election in the East Ward.

The ceremony was held at noon, and in the absence of the retiring Mayor the Council voted the Deputy Mayor (Councillor C. Dillingham) to the chair until the new Mayor was elected and invested with his robes of office – a new set purchased to replace those destroyed at the Town Hall. The mace was absent, as it was considerably damaged in the fire, and had been sent away for repairs.

Alderman J. H. Staddon, to whom was given the task of proposing the resolution that Councillor Attwood should be elected Mayor, said the Mayor-elect was elected to a casual vacancy in the East Ward in 1898, and in 1900 he and the speaker were returned together at the ordinary November election. During the whole of the period they had been associated, and therefore it was in order that he should have the pleasure of proposing his colleague for the high and honourable post of Mayor.

Whatever had taken place during the past year was past. They had the future to look to, and both the incoming Mayor and all his colleagues were, he was certain, prepared to wipe out whatever stain there might be upon the Borough, and see that it was reinstated very quickly in the position it held for such a great number of years.

Councillor Attwood had been a consistent worker of the Council, and had served on the three most important committees – the Sewage, Highways and General Purposes Committee. They heard a good deal that traders should not be on public bodies, of whose work they knew something. To his mind that was an utter fallacy.

In this instance they had a gentleman who had gone through the hoops as a builder, and was a practical man, and such men were necessary to the work of the Corporation, whatever the opinions outside might be. Councillor Attwood had also been co-opted a member of the Housing and Town Planning Committee – a perfectly justifiable co-optation; and he was a useful member of the committee.

In seconding, Councillor Barford said that Councillor Attwood's return by so large a majority by the East Ward electorate might be taken as an indication that the burgesses not only had confidence in his as a councillor, but also as a Mayor. This confidence would be shared in other wards of the borough, and especially by those who had an opportunity of working with him in public life.

In looking to the future, it was almost impossible not to cast one glance backward. As a nation they had passed through a year of great rejoicing, not unmixed at times with some anxieties. Locally, whilst sharing with the national joy, they had a year of much tribulation, heart-searching and misunderstanding.

Whatever the burgesses as a whole have experienced in anxiety and uncertainty during the last few months, those anxieties had been shared to the full and flowing over by the members of the Council. The clouds of uncertainty appeared to be dissolving, and there was every reason to believe that they were on the eve of a period of great commercial prosperity, and it would be the Council's duty under the new Mayor to foster that prosperity by every means in their power. It would also be their duty to do what was possible by consideration, foresight, diligence and strenuous work to re-establish their good name in the annals of communal life.

As the first Labour representative elected to the Council, Councillor Mair said he supported the motion. He stated his objection in committee, and that objection was as sound now as then, but he was democratic enough to accept the voice of the majority. One of the great questions which the Council had to face was that of housing and the health of the people, and Councillor Attwood as a practical man would undoubtedly be of great assistance in his high office.

The resolution was carried with unanimity, and Councillor Attwood signed the declaration book. As he left his seat for the robing room he was heartily applauded, not only by his fellow councillors but by the public in the gallery; and he was warmly greeted as he took the chair attired in the new robes.

Returning thanks, the new Mayor said he was not entering the office lightly. He could see rocks and shifting sands ahead if they were not careful, but he hoped he would have the support of every burgess.