‘Attack’ on Harrogate causes spat

Strong-worded letter - Robert Windass.
Strong-worded letter - Robert Windass.

The new Mayor of Ripon has dismissed talks of a rift developing between the city and Harrogate Borough Council following controversial comments made at his Mayor making ceremony.

Coun Mick Stanley, speaking to the Gazette after he was sent a “strongly-worded” letter by outgoing Mayor of Harrogate, Boroughbridge Coun Robert Windass, said speeches made at his Mayor making lunch were intended to be “ humorous in tone” and if Coun Windass “was offended, he was offended – but I don’t think that there was anything that could be taken offensively”.

But Coun Windass told the Gazette the speeches were “most embarrassing because, of course, I didn’t have a right of reply”.

Talking about comments made by speakers at the lunch, including Civic Society chairman David Winpenny and Coun Stanley, Coun Windass said: “If they wanted to have a dig at Harrogate, they should have chosen an official meeting. It was totally and completely off-side. They just had a pop at Harrogate all the way through.

“I know a lot of people who came up to me and said ‘thank you for keeping your cool’. I came close to standing up and walking out.”

Coun Windass said he sent “quite a strongly-worded letter” to Coun Stanley about the incident – but branded the Ripon Mayor’s reply a “tongue-in-cheek apology”.

Referring to Coun Stanley’s installation as the new Mayor at Ripon Cathedral on Sunday, May 12, Coun Windass said: “I went to the Mayor’s installation as Ripon and Harrogate are good neighbours – but whether he deserved it is another matter.”

Responding to claims that his speech – dubbed “veiled comedy” by Coun Windass – may have caused offence, Mr Winpenny told the Gazette: “It was meant to be light-hearted and not to cause any offence. I am really sorry that the Mayor was offended by it.”

Mr Winpenny’s speech talked about the “nightmare of Ripon” based on a song by Gilbert and Sullivan, with Harrogate “interfering with Ripon”.

“People who spoke to me certainly seemed to like it,” he said. “Certainly the Ripon people liked it!”

- Does Harrogate have too much say in Ripon? Email news@ripongazette.co.uk