A LAST minute amendment to Calne Town Council’s guide to the roles and responsibilities of being a mayor or a councillor provoked a row over making the wearing of council robes obligatory at civic events.

The new civic protocols, prepared by the governance and policy working group, were considered by the full council on Monday. The Mayor of Calne, Cllr Glenis Ansell, proposed an amendment to require councillors to wear robes on civic occasions such as Remembrance Sunday and Mayor Making. Previously councillors have been ‘encouraged’, rather than ‘required’, to do so.

The protocols, including the amendment, were passed despite opposition from several councillors.

“This wasn’t the case when I was elected. You are changing the rules - it is unacceptable,” said Labour Cllr John Boaler.

LibDem Cllr Ansell said: “It’s the garb of the town council, and it is a privilege.”

Councillors were advised that if they refused to follow the instructions, they could be reported them to the Standards Panel.

After the meeting Cllr Boaler said: "This was vigorously opposed by the three Labour councillors, who to date have opted not to wear these robes; and have no intention of wearing them in future.

“We wish Calne Town Council would present itself to the community as open, modern, inclusive and progressive.

“Unfortunately at present a majority, though not all, of the other councillors rather than relax our traditions, in line with wider changes in society, want to strengthen them.

“We do not believe the people of Calne are bothered by such protocols. What they want to know is that we are alert and alive to the issues that concern them - traffic congestion, poor air quality, too many houses being built with no new local employment, our declining high street etc, and are trying our best to address these."

Cllr Ansell said several members of the public had approached her to comment on the councillors who were not wearing robes at the last Remembrance Sunday event.

“Councillors are now ‘required’ to wear robes. I would hope they respect that request,” she said.

“It seemed disrespectful they would not put on robes and would not be identified with the town. It’s the principle that councillors represent the town.