Rugby councillors elect our town's first Zulu-speaking mayor

Rugby councillors have elected their first Zulu-speaking mayor who has vowed to use her year in office to try and integrate the various communities so that they can pull together.

Cllr Carolyn Watson-Merret. Photo: Rugby Borough Council.
Cllr Carolyn Watson-Merret. Photo: Rugby Borough Council.

Cllr Chris Cade had been set to become mayor but the longstanding councillor suddenly stepped down some months ago, with no reason given.

And now South African born Cllr Carolyn Watson-Merret (Con, Admirals and Cawston) took over as the borough’s first citizen at this week’s May 19 annual meeting of the council, replacing Cllr Deepah Roberts (Con, Dunsmore).

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She told a packed council chamber how her upbringing in Africa had helped her in later life as she spent time as a goldsmith in London, a forensic police officer in Northamptonshire and now a councillor and mayor in Rugby.

She said: “It helped that there was no TV in my home until I was 18. We talked at dinner table discussions with my parents and other members of the family about things like human rights and I think it moulded me and inspired me to give back to communities in the way that I’d seen my family do.

“When I was a goldsmith in London I joined community projects and was inspired to do exactly the same when I returned to South Africa in my 20s.

“My work gave me a broad understanding of the structure of societies here in the UK and how very different they were from the first world society where I came from.

"It made me respect the way people became involved and were affected by crime.

“There is no doubt that these experiences have a huge role to play in my role as a councillor and I look forward to welcoming young people in the borough to join in community projects.”

Cllr Watson-Merret then revealed her theme for the coming year and announced that her charity would be Rugby Foodbank.

She said: “When people in Rugby and the surrounding villages are making difficult decisions between heating or eating and when the empty shelves of Rugby Foodbank were making headlines, I know it is time to do more.

"I call on you all this year to help me achieve more donations over the next 365 days.

“My mayor’s theme is integrating Rugby - its towns, villages, farms and rural communities. We do not need to forget our farmers who are having a very difficult time so we really need to pull together as communities.”

Labour leader and Benn ward councillor Maggie O’Rourke was elected deputy mayor and councillors gave a vote of thanks to the retiring mayor, Cllr Roberts.

As the meeting took place members of the Unite union staged a protest outside the town hall as the borough bin strike continues – Rugby council had offered a pay rise to the workers two days previously – but the union rejected it and negotiations are continuing.

The strike began on April and is presently set to continue until June 15 unless the union comes to an agreement with the council.