MANY Dorset residents are unlikely to be bothered about whether or not Dorset Council introduces the titles of aldermen and women.

The claim comes from a former Dorchester mayor, Richard Biggs, although he says he would personally welcome the honorary title coming back into being.

The old-fashioned title used to be given to long-serving councillors but was dropped when the new authority came into being in 2019.

Now Dorset Council leader Spencer Flower has said he wants to re-introduce the title, not only for those who serve on Dorset Council, but councillors on the previous district, county and borough councils – provided they have clocked up enough years.

And that might become a sticking point.

Cllr Flower has suggested 16 years’ service as the minimum which has led to a debate about how that should be calculated.

The council’s audit committee heard a range of views on the subject this week – from claims that it should be just 16 years’ service on one authority to a discussion about how ‘dual-hatted’ councillors should be treated, those who might have served on two councils at the same time in the past. How would those years be treated?

Some argued that length of service should be even less than 16 years as a minimum – provided you had made some notable achievements during your time. no matter how short that was.

Sherborne councillor Robin Legg said the idea, which will be financed from the council chairman’s annual budget at around £100 per head, had the potential to go really well, or very badly, and could end up being divisive.

Committee chairman Cllr Matt Hall said he would also like to see something similar for long-serving town and parish councillors although was told that would be outside of the remit of Dorset Council.

In the end the committee recommended backing the idea, suggesting a slight change to the wording, adding that recommendations for the title would only “ordinarily” be considered after 16 years, to allow for some leeway.

A final decision on the criteria will be made by the council’s Cabinet at a later meeting.