COLCHESTER’S mayor could be the first to stay on for more than 12 months, for more than 70 years, as the council wrestles with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Veteran councillor Nick Cope (Lib Dem, New Town and Christ Church) was sworn in at Colchester Council’s annual mayor making ceremony last May.

Deputy Beverly Oxford (Ind, Highwoods) was set to take over the mantle this year, however, with all council meetings off and May’s council elections cancelled, an alternative arrangement may be necessary.

If Mr Cope, who was first elected as a councillor in 1994, stays on more than a year he will be the first mayor to do so since Leonard Dansie, who served for 18 months between 1947 and 1949. Percy Saunders also held the role for four years during the Second World War.

Mr Cope said many mayoral visits and events had been cancelled due to the outbreak.

He said: “It is a huge shame. I was looking forward to some big events in the closing weeks and I was due to give a big speech on my time as mayor.

“People will undoubtedly associate my mayoralty with the outbreak, I cannot stop them thinking of it. But I like to think there were some good times before this happened.”

Mr Cope said discussions were ongoing to decide the best way forward.

“If it is continuity the council needs I might be the man for the job, but Beverly is also very experienced and I am sure she is ready to do the role,” he said.

The mayor said he wanted to put on record his thanks for the hard work of public servants during unprecedented times.

He added: “I really must say how wonderful our NHS staff are being in this situation. They are dealing with the most colossal burden and are putting themselves at risk to help others.”

A Colchester Council spokesman said it was “continually reviewing the situation” and would clarify the mayoralty position once the Government confirmed arrangements for meetings.