Northam Town Council has become one of the first councils in the country to elect its new mayor in cyberspace.

Liberal Democrat councillor David Chalmers was voted in during an online meeting via Zoom on June 10.

Unlike many town councils in England, whose annual general meetings had been postponed or cancelled and the decision taken to continue with the existing structure for another year, Northam voted to reinstate all its council and committee meetings online.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Chalmers said: “I am proud of the example Northam has set for councils throughout Devon and across the country.

“We cannot allow a crisis of this magnitude to interrupt our local democracy and accountability to residents. I am grateful for the trust placed in me by my fellow councillors who know that I will give it my full commitment and leadership.”

Cllr Chalmers, who lives in Appledore, is a governor of Petroc College and chair of North Devon Sunrise, a community organisation committed to challenging prejudice and celebrating diversity.

He added: “I am especially proud to be taking office as a gay man in Pride Month when across the world we celebrate our LGBT+ members of our communities.

“Coastal communities like ours are predicted to be among the worst affected by the coming economic recession.

“Already Torridge has one of the highest rates of increase in unemployment in the country as a result of the lockdown. Losing Appledore Shipyard was a terrible blow.

“I will make sure the council does all it can to promote our area and make sure that residents - and the visitors that many local people and businesses rely on – feel reassured and are safe and protected.”

He thanked the outgoing mayor, John Himan, and his deputy, Cllr Heather McCarthy, for the work they have done during the past year and said that he looks forward to working with Cllr Claire Hodson as deputy mayor.