OXFORD'S new Lord Mayor Carole Roberts pledged to become the People's Mayor at an emotionally-charged ceremony last night.

Her political opponents carried out their threat to deliver an unprecedented snub to the new Lord Mayor at Oxford Town Hall after labelling her unworthy of the honour.

Eleven Lib Dems and two Green councillors refused to vote for Mrs Roberts, robbing her of the all-party support traditionally given to a new Lord Mayor.

But roared on by her Labour colleagues on the city council, she joked: "It looks like you've got the grumpy grouchy Lord Mayor."

Then she rounded on those who criticised her for being too aggressive and outspoken.

"I'm going to be the People's Mayor. That is what they are calling me at the Family Centre at Rose Hill. These are the people I work for. I'm honoured to be Lord Mayor.

"There is so much we could do as a council if we stopped all this petty politics and worked together for the benefit of the city," said Mrs Roberts, who lives in Blackbird Leys and grew up in London's East End.

After being confirmed as Lord Mayor by 31 votes, with 13 abstentions and no votes against, she thanked people who had been outraged at the treatment of a long-serving councillor.

"I would like to thank everyone for their cards, phone calls or who just stopped me in the street," she said.

The Labour veteran said homelessness, the issue that brought her into local politics, would be remain her number one priority. She also called for a closer partnership with the University to end Town and Gown divisions to boost employment prospects. Lib Dem Jim Campbell who sparked the row after labelling Mrs Roberts's behaviour unsuitable for a Mayor, was full of praise for her acceptance speech.

He said: "I thought the speech was one of the best I have heard from a new Lord Mayor.

"Unfortunately, she shows little respect for people who oppose her. She is an extremely political person and treats opponents with contempt."

There had been be shouts of "cowards" from the Labour benches when the Lib Dems declined to vote.

Jim Campbell, deputy leader of the Lib Dem group, admitted some of his members had wanted to vote against her election. "In terms of the vote I think it would have made little difference. But if she proves us wrong , we will be the first to admit it."

Labour's Val Smith, proposing Mrs Roberts' election said: "She made a brilliant chair of housing, not least because she understands the problem of being homeless herself.

"She is a council tenant and has a day to day knowledge of people's worries and frustrations."

Councillor Bob Price, who was appointed as the new Sheriff last night, said: "There have been some unkind things said about Carole. She has an intelligence and breadth of vision rare in local government."

Afterwards Green Party councillor Paul Ingram said: "I abstained because I was appalled at Carole's behaviour at the last council meeting and a threat she made that suggested she would abuse her position as mayor."

Councillor Beryl Keen was elected as the new Deputy Lord Mayor.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.