A new Mayor has been elected at Bexley, with Blackfen and Lamorbey ward member James Hunt to be the borough’s 81st first citizen.

Cllr Hunt was officially voted in at the borough’s first full meeting ever to be held remotely and streamed online.

The Conservative councillor staved off a challenge from Labour’s Esther Amaning, who was nominated by her party colleagues.

The new Mayor takes over from Cllr Geraldene Lucia-Hennis who has held the role for the last year.

In his acceptance speech Cllr Hunt thanked councillors and paid tribute to the hundreds of key workers in the borough “who go out everyday to keep things running”.

“For my family and myself there is no greater honour to be made first citizen of our borough,” he said.

He singled out the “special group” of “blue light services” and NHS workers for praise – including wife and new Mayoress Christine, a theatre nurse at Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup who has been re-deployed to the ICU at Darent Valley Hospital during the Covid-19 crisis.

“When we return to some kind of normal, I intend on working on something to recognise them…(and) will do all I can to support small community groups, charities and local businesses we rely on this year,” he said. 

During his year of office, Cllr Hunt will be raising funds for local chairities including Bexley’s Looked After Children, as well as Bexley Crossroads and Bexley Carer’s Support, alongside other small charities that may request his support as the year progresses.

It’s the latest role on council for Cllr Hunt, who was first elected to the local authority in 2006.

Previous roles have included serving as the chairman of the borough’s ‘People’s’ overview and scrutiny committee for four years and chairman for eight years of the education, youth and children’s social care overview and scrutiny committee.

“Bexley is a double gateway – both to London and the opportunities that provides, and to the Garden of England, which is Kent. We have a beautiful borough and I am excited at the prospect of representing all of our residents and to promoting Bexley and all it has to offer,” he said after his election.

Cllr Hunt appointed Cllr Sue Gower MBE to be his Deputy Mayor.

The meeting also saw councillors hold a minute of silence for John Harrington, who served as Mayor of the borough from 1988-1989, after his recent death.

The long-term servant of the Bexley community was presented with a civic recognition from the council in 2014 in recognition of his “outstanding achievement” in the borough.