VETERAN councillor Ron Woodley has taken the chains of office to become Southend’s 103rd mayor and the city’s first ever Independent mayor.

Mr Woodley, Independent councillor for Thorpe Ward, took over from outgoing mayor Steve Habermel at the annual mayor making ceremony at Southend’s Civic Centre yesterday.

The ceremony was attended by the High Sheriff of Essex, MPs, members of the faith community, council officials, family members and friends.

The new mayor, who will serve with his wife Maureen, vowed to support two charities during his year in office - HARP, Southend’s homeless charity, and the Jude Harvey Foundation which aims to prevent young sudden cardiac deaths through awareness, screening, research and supporting families.

Speaking at the ceremony Mr Woodley said: “I really am delighted to have this opportunity to become mayor of our great city.

“I very much look forward to meeting the amazing range of voluntary and community organisations across Southend and helping to promote their hard work and dedication.

“I’m nominating my charity Harp as a I believe no one in today’s age should be living on the streets and I really thank them for being there. Also the June Harvey Foundation for highlighting cardiac risk in the young and their involvement for promoting the need for heart scans.

“Just yesterday I needed a heart scan at the hospital so I’m only too aware of that particular need.”

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Mr Woodley revealed he will be donating his allowance as mayor to his charities.

He said: “I propose my whole allowance for being mayor will be placed into the charity funds.”

The mayoralty is an apolitical office and the outspoken Mr Woodley added: “It’s going to be a new experience for me keeping my mouth shut.”

Mr Woodley served as an Independent councillor for 17 years, holding various positions at the council including chairman of policy and resources, chairman of place scrutiny, and both deputy leader and leader of the council.

Ron was the first Independent leader of the council and is the first Independent mayor of Southend.

Nigel Foulkard was appointed deputy mayor along with his wife deputy Mayoress Marianne Folkard.

Mr Habermel, who received tributes from colleagues across the chamber, revealed he raised more than £26,000 for Havens Hospice The Music Man Project during his year.