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Dresscode on the agenda

PUBLISHED: 13:56 30 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:26 07 July 2010

FORMER prime minister Tony Blair was once given a dressing down for wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

Fellow former cabinet member Mo Mowlam also got her collar felt by the fashion police and was described as “scruffy” for her style of clothing.

FORMER prime minister Tony Blair was once given a dressing down for wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

Fellow former cabinet member Mo Mowlam also got her collar felt by the fashion police and was described as “scruffy” for her style of clothing.

And plenty of attire experts got shirty with former Labour leader Michael Foot for wearing a donkey jacket at a Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph.

But away from the high-profile corridors of national politics, democracy and dress sense have gone head to head in a Norfolk market town where town councillors have been accused of dressing more for the seaside than decision making.

Mayor John Gretton has felt it necessary to admonish male members of Dereham Town Council for not dressing properly to town council meetings in an email sent to all councillors.

The dress code for the House of Commons is a clearly stated shirt and tie, but when it comes to local democracy, the rules are not so clear.

In fact there are no Local Government Association guidelines.

At one council in Huntingdon it used to be the case that men could not take their jackets off in the council chamber until invited to do so by the chairman of the meeting.

Mr Gretton, who is also a Breckland district and Norfolk county councillor, sent an email repeating a request that men wear shirt and tie.

He says it is all about being professional rather being dressed for the seaside, as “not all councillors have been convinced.”

“There are some Norwich City councillors who dress scruffily,” he said. “People always mention it and I think they are treated with less respect.

“I believe that, if we are to be seen as a responsible and professional council, male councillors should wear jacket and tie.

“I have contacted male councillors twice on that issue,” said Mr Gretton.

And he says if his requests are not heeded, reforming the council's standing orders to include a dress code could be an option.

But Green party councillor Timothy Birt, known for his more relaxed appearance, says the request for jacket and tie at town council is “pompous.”

“Why aren't we doing something more important than worrying about jackets and ties,” he said.

“I have turned out in appropriate dress, including jacket and tie for formal occasions such as Remembrance Sunday, but as far as council meetings are concerned, I'm not convinced it will make it any more serious or professional.”

He added that a dress code would only alienate people and questioned why it was just the men who were being singled out for their attire.

However, Roy Blower, lord mayor of Norwich, said most people would expect councillors to dress in reasonable attire.

“I personally think you should come in shirt and tie. I could excuse people going without a tie if they wore a jacket and trousers.

“Some people say it is not about what you're wearing, it is about what you're saying and I see some credence in that.

“But it is like everything else, it is a matter of common sense.”

A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents larger councils, said there was no LGA guidance on dress codes.

“The mayor can suggest what people wear but there is no particular rule unless they introduce a dress code, if they wanted to go down that route.”

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