DENNIS Southwell will be the next Mayor of Durham, the Durham Times understands.

The Liberal Democrat county councillor for Gilesgate, in Durham, is believed to have been the only nomination for the post made to a meeting of Durham’s Charter Trust held on Monday.

Coun Southwell, a former cabinet member for finance at the now-defunct Durham City Council, is set to be confirmed in the historic role at the trustees’ annual general meeting on Tuesday, May 5.

He will succeed Coun Grenville Holland.

The new deputy mayor will be Coun Mamie Simmons, a Liberal Democrat county councillor for Newton Hall.

She will replace Ron Dickie.

The title of Mayor of Durham goes back to 1602 and is the fifth most senior in the UK, behind London, York, Belfast and Cardiff. The position ranks third in the traditional local hierarchy, after the Queen and the Lord Lieutenant for County Durham.

The position has its own bodyguard and its responsibilities include maintaining the traditions of office and promoting Durham as a place to live and visit. Coun Southwell will be the 407th mayor.

The process of selecting mayors has been controversial in recent months, with arguments over who should be eligible for the role and how it should be paid for.

The Charter Trust has 22 trustees, comprising the county councillors for the former Durham City Council area and three councillors from elsewhere in County Durham: Couns Neil Foster, Brian Myers and Jim Cordon.

At Monday’s meeting, an attempt to change the constitution to allow members of the public to be nominated as mayor was defeated.

Durham County Council has agreed to pay £132,155 to cover all mayoral expenses for the next financial year – the equivalent of an extra £5 a year on council tax for band D properties in the former Durham City district.

Plans for a town council for Durham, which could take responsibility for choosing the mayor, have been delayed for several months.