THE mayor of Keighley has defended his conduct in office after a previous mayor accused him of letting Keighley down by failing to attend civic events.

Oakworth resident Graham Mitchell, a former councillor who served as town mayor twice, criticised current mayor Cllr Fulzar Ahmed at Keighley's Annual Town Meeting.

Citing Cllr Ahmed's lack of attendance at three events between early January and late March, Mr Mitchell said: "These absences over the last three months have been an embarrassment to Keighley Town Council."

Cllr Ahmed countered that he had gone to dozens of other public functions since becoming mayor in May last year, stressing the security budget for the mayoral regalia even needed to be increased because he was present at so many engagements.

Mr Mitchell said his own experiences as mayor meant he understood the difficulties of this role.

But he highlighted Cllr Ahmed's absence from the Tewitt Hill Memorial Service for Second World War Canadian bomber crew, the Integrated Keighley Conference and the launch of an historic steam engine at Ingrow on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.

Mr Mitchell said: "The organiser at Ingrow said to me, 'Where is your town mayor? It's a pretty poor show that he's not bothered to turn up.'

"That was hugely embarrassing. These were all important events where the town council should have been represented by the town mayor."

He added he had written to Cllr Ahmed about his concerns, but had not received a reply.

He said when the town council reconvenes in May it should put in place procedures to ensure such absences at significant local public gatherings do not happen again.

Cllr Ahmed responded: "I feel there are lessons to be learned from this and I apologise for not getting back to you."

He pointed out that as mayor he is normally meant to receive a formal invitation if people would like him to be present at certain engagements.

He said these formal invites had not always reached him, noting the town council had undergone a change of staff.

"Everything I've done this year has gone through the town council office first to make sure protocol has been followed," he said.

However, following Mr Mitchell's comments Cllr Julie Adams challenged Cllr Ahmed, saying he "picked and chose" which events to attend.

She said he should not blame the town council's office for his absences, and asked why he had gone to two family weddings wearing the mayoral chains.

She asked why these weddings were judged to be more important than official, civic functions. But Cllr Ahmed replied Bradford's Lord Mayor has also attended weddings in his official capacity.

Parishioner Mike Kosschuk was also critical of Cllr Ahmed, saying he had unfairly cut short debate while chairing a meeting in late 2018, when there were still people waiting to ask questions. "That is not accountability," he argued.

Cllr Ahmed replied that as mayor he must chair a number of meetings and he always gives people a chance to have their say.

Town councillors Kaneez Akthar and Emanuele Bernardini both spoke up for Cllr Ahmed.

Cllr Bernardini said: "I feel we're being a bit too harsh towards our mayor. I've seen him out and about everywhere doing his best for the town."

Cllr Akthar said: "There's been enough said about three events the mayor didn't go to. There have been many others that he did attend.

"I appreciate there are some concerns and we have heard an apology. I feel we've had a good town mayor who has chaired a lot of difficult town council meetings."