Gavin Harding has been named mayor of Selby in West Yorkshire, becoming the first man with learning disabilities to hold such an office.
Harding, who was previously deputy mayor, is also a member of the town council for Labour. He is in his second term as councillor for Selby Northward, and increased his number of votes from 590 to 1,039 at the recent election. He is also believed to be one of, if the not the first UK councillor with learning disabilities. He was made an MBE in June 2014 for his work representing people with learning disabilities.
He was nominated for the position of mayor by a fellow councillor, and his appointment was then approved by the whole councillor.
Speaking to the Guardian, Harding said: “I had to keep pinching myself, saying is this real... it’s a great honour being mayor of Selby, my home town. It’s a big town in North Yorkshire with a great community and great people in it.”
He added that he wants to: “make sure as chair of town council meetings that we act in the best interests of the public as much as we can and serve the community.”
Harding’s role also includes attending local functions – one of the first will be opening the Selby Beer Festival on July 25.
He told the Guardian that his priorities for the coming year include stopping cuts to the local police service, such as the relocation of the police station to council offices, as well as attracting more shops to the town and developing more facilities for young people.
Harding has been a leading figure in learning disability self-advocacy for some years. He is on the board of directors of Inclusion North and is a director/trustee of Voices for People in Selby, and was previously co-chair of the National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities.
Picture: Gavin with outgoing mayor Rosie Corrigan