Lancaster City Council ‘may not have the power’ to sell mayor’s car number plate

Lancaster City Council may not have the power to sell a special car number plate linked to the mayor, a councillor has claimed, even though the sale of a document which accompanies the plate could possibly raise £250,000.

By Robbie Macdonald, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 12:12 pm

Progress and possible obstacles surrounding the proposed sale of the ‘L50’ number plate, along with assurances that other civic items such the mayor’s chains, mace and items at historic Lancaster Town Hall, will stay in public ownership, were discussed at the latest full meeting of the city council.

In recent months, Lancaster City Council has discussed making some potential changes to the mayor’s transport and staff arrangements, along with bidding to gain lord mayor status in connection with the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

Mayor support-staff costs, regular late-night working, vehicle costs and the need for a new car are among the factors behind a set of recommended changes.

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Lancaster's mayoral car with its distinctive L50 number plate at Lunesdale Garage, Hornby, pictured in the 1970s.

As reported in December, ideas have included selling an L50 number plate which has been used on the mayor’s car in the past, using an electric car and creating a new role for a driver who can also carry out the mayor’s attendant role and keep the mayor’s chains secure.

Councillors in the cabinet recently agreed to these proposals and asked the council’s chief executive to oversee the work, in consultation with other council officers and the leader of the council, Green councillor Caroline Jackson. Proceeds from selling the L50 number plate would be kept for future mayoral activities, the cabinet agreed. A reserve price would be agreed before a sale.

However, Conservative councillor Peter Yates raised a question about the mayor’s number plate during an update at the latest full council meeting, which was attended by all councillors.

He said: “The registration plate is worth £20. But the registration document could be worth between £30,000 and £250,000. I have seen registrations with a preface such as ‘L’ advertised for £248,000. Who is going to place the reserve on this valuable asset for this city and are we going to have a say on its sale?”

Labour councillor Erica Lewis, who is a member of the cabinet, replied: “It would be wonderful if it raised £250,000. I’d be happy to have a discussion about it. Officers have had some talks about this but I’ve not heard a sum like that. It’s an ongoing discussion.

“We think the money from selling the registration plate should be reserved to support the mayor and ceremonial events. If we are successful in getting upgraded lord mayor status for the Queen’s Jubilee then we would need new gowns. The proceeds could be used to start the new lord mayor in good style.”

Coun Lewis said the registration L50 plate was not actually fixed to a car and other ways of transporting the mayor to events were being looked at. She also quipped that the mayor should perhaps travel in rugged military-style truck ‘because of all that gold around his neck’.

Labour councillor Alan Biddulph said he understood the thrust of Coun Yates’ question about the value of the registration plate and documents. But he warned that selling the L50 plate would not solve all the issues around the mayor and ceremonies, and there were other questions to be explored, he suggested.

He said: “A few years ago in discussions, we were told the L50 registration had been gifted to the council to go with the car. It is not in our powers to sell it. We should find the descendants and give it back to them.”

But he added: “Where will the sale end? How much is the mayoral mace worth? What about all the objects in the mayor’s parlour? When visitors come to Lancaster Town Hall they want to see these things. It’s important.”

Coun Lewis replied: “The sale of the mace or the Gillow table (a table in the mayor’s parlour) is not on the agenda. There is work ongoing on items. Some may be derived from slavery but there are no plans to sell any items.”

Referring to the first question from the Conservative councillor regarding the sale of public assets, she added: “I have to say it’s a bit amiss for the Conservatives to raise concerns about selling off public assets. That has long been the position of the Conservative Party, who are constantly trying to sell-off the NHS. So I think public assets are safer with us rather than the Conservatives.”

The full council meeting noted the update report from the cabinet.