New Luton mayor says close family he has lost would have been 'extremely proud' to see him take office
Mayor-making meeting also sees minute's silence for former Labour councillor Paul Castleman
Luton's new mayor has said the close family he has lost would have been 'extremely proud' to see him take office.
In his acceptance speech after putting on the mayoral robes, Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain referred to his own personal loss, having seen his brother die during the pandemic and his mother, father and son prior to the Covid crisis.
"It would have been a very special day for my father, mother, brother and son," he said. "They would have been extremely proud, but sadly they all died.
"This for me is a happy day with a tinge of sadness. Many of us in this room have lost loved ones."
A minute's silence was also held at Luton Borough Council's mayor making ceremony in memory of former Labour councillor Paul Castleman, who died last month.
The South ward councillor and lifelong Lutonian died after a short time at Luton and Dunstable Hospital.
The mayor led the mark of respect to his party colleague at last night's (Wednesday's) council meeting, saying: "I now acknowledge the very sad passing of councillor Paul Castleman.
"The nature of this evening's meeting doesn't lend itself to tributes, so I intend to invite speakers, of which I know there'll be many, at the meeting of the council on Tuesday September 28.
"In the meantime, let us stand for a minute's silence in memory of my best friend."
Speaking before the ceremony, held at The Auction House, Councillor Hussain denied the delay of the mayor making proceedings, which are normally held in June, was a disappointment.
"It's not been easy for all of us because we've gone through a very difficult period, which has been very sad for some of us," he explained.
"We've lost some very close friends and that has a major impact for all of us.
"Paul Castleman was my best friend and for me personally he was the most honourable and really dedicated Lutonian, who cared for Luton far more than anyone I know in politics, and he's a great loss to people in the community.
"Up to the last minute, the last text I got from him, he was thinking about things he would have liked to have done and he wanted to do for the betterment and improving the quality of life of people in Luton."
Asked about the likelihood of his mayoral role returning to some degree of normality, he replied: "I'm hopeful and we're all looking forward to being able to do that.
"But we still need to be cautious. This virus isn't going to go away soon.
"This is the first ceremony outside the town hall of Luton, rather than in the town centre, so it's something very different to what we've done previously."
Labour Saints councillor Ghulam Javed is the deputy mayor for 2021/22. Councillor Javed told the meeting his father had passed away on the day in which he was elected to the council in 2019.
The ceremony included presentations to the previous two mayors of the town. The impact of Covid had prevented the borough council formally recognising the achievements of Labour Challney councillor Tahir Malik and Labour Leagrave councillor Maria Lovell until now.
Both received medals of office in respect of their service during the last two years.