OTLEY'S retiring Town Mayor has been congratulated for raising a 'phenomenal' amount for charity.

Councillor Nigel Francis (Ind, Danefield) ended up raising £31,000 for his 14+1 appeal over his mayoral year.

He announced the total at the Town Council's AGM this week - when, in an emotional speech, he admitted the effort involved had taken its toll.

At one point last autumn, when he was delivering hundreds of leaflets a day to promote the Otley Snowman Trail, he was forced to take a break due to a knee injury.

Cllr Francis overcame that hurdle, though, and others to - by holding everything from a Bulgarian evening to a Retro Weekend - raise a grand total of £31,026.

He said: "Life is like a rollercoaster but this time the highs were very high and the lows, very low.

"Even though I am bruised and battered I think it has been a great success."

He also offered effusive thanks to council office staff, his team of volunteers and helpers, his son and Consort, Callum and his wife, Diane.

The money will be shared between the 15 groups or projects that the appeal supported.

They were: Children's Home in Belovo; Library in Menenkyovo; Library in Gambia; Bore Holes in Zambia; Natureland Seal Sanctuary; Hug on a Tray; Otley Parish Church Bells; Otley Navvies Memorial; St Gemma's, Wheatfields Sue Ryder, Bluebell Wood, Forget Me Not and Martin House hospices; Hang on to a Dream; and the Avro Memorial.

Representatives from some of the beneficiaries attended the meeting on Monday, May 14, to accept their portion and express their gratitude.

Council Chair Councillor Ray Georgeson (Lib Dem, Danefield) told Cllr Francis: "It's a phenomenal amount of money you've raised, really first class."

Cllr Francis, who has now been mayor four times, has been succeeded by Councillor Mary Vickers (Lib Dem, Prince Henry's) in the role.

Speaking after receiving the chains of office from her predecessor, she said: "Nigel, when it comes to working for charities I think we all agree you should get a medal!"

She added that her focus as town mayor would be to visit as many local organisations and events as possible.

Cllr Vickers will be supporting two charities during her mayoral year - Behind Closed Doors, which supports victims of domestic violence, and the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts at Otley Parish Church.