Leicester's new Lord Mayor puts prayers back on agenda at council's meetings
By David Maclean, Political Correspondent
Prayers before Leicester City Council's monthly meetings are back on the agenda.
New Lord Mayor Rob Wann has revived the tradition of prayer before the city's main full council meeting.
A short prayer has been said at the start of the meetings since 1997, with a year's gap between 2005-06 when Mary Draycott was Lord Mayor.
However, Colin Hall, on taking up the role last May, said the practice was "outdated, unnecessary and intrusive" and would not continue during his year of office.
He selected Allan Hayes, a humanist, to be his chaplain during the civic year.
This week Coun Wann selected a religious chaplain – Canon Barry Naylor – for his term of office, and brought back prayer before meetings.
At Thursday's annual meeting councillors and guests were asked to rise for prayer, led by Canon Naylor, for the first time in 12 months.
Coun Wann said: "Each mayor can decide how to do things during their year of office and Colin Hall had every right to remove prayers during his term of office.
"However, I thought it was important to bring prayers back. It's a moment of reflection before council business.
"It's a recent tradition but one that could be lost if we're not careful. The history of the Lord Mayor's position goes back hundreds of years and I think it's important to respect the history that is tied to the role.
"It's for future Lord Mayors to decide whether they stick with tradition or make changes again."
Canon Naylor said: "Spirituality, in whatever form, plays a part in civic life.
"Even though the prayers will come from a Christian perspective I will be selecting prayers which people from all faiths can relate to.
"I have served as chaplain to Robert for the past year when he was deputy Lord Mayor, and I'm looking forward to the year ahead."
Last year, Mr Hall declined to attend the city cathedral service which traditionally welcomes Lord Mayors into the new role.
Coun Wann deputised last year and said he would be taking part in the service when it is held on Sunday.
He has adopted the Royal Anglian Regiment Benevolent Fund for Leicestershire as his charity during the Mayoral year.
It helps serving and former members of the regiment and their dependents who are in need.
He said: "Soldiers and their families deserve more support than they currently get and I hope my appeal helps provide some of this in Leicester.
"I've made sure that the money is ring-fenced for people in this area, because I've always believed that charity begins at home."
For more information on the appeal, visit: www.leicester.gov.uk/lordmayor