A NEW era has dawned at York's Guildhall with the arrival of City of York Council's first all-female civic party -and its first humanist celebrant as chaplain to the Lord Mayor.

Council leader David Carr said it was a "huge expression of womenpower" as Cllr Barbara Boyce became Lord Mayor, Valerie Clark became Lady Mayoress, Gillian Brian became Sheriff and Anne Bush became Sheriff"s Consort.

"It's novel, but very welcome," he said. "Barbara has spent a lifetime speaking up for equalities for women and she continues to champion that cause.

"Surely the pinnacle of her achievement sits with us today in the form of the civic party elect."

Cllr Carr also spoke of Cllr Boyce's 'plain north of England working class background,' her maternal grandmother having been born in the York Union Workhouse in Huntington Road.

Labour councillor Daf Williams said the appointment of the city's first all-female civic party was in keeping with the Lord Mayor's upbringing, which included time at Mill Mount All-Girls Grammar School.

He also said she was fiercely independent and 'never afraid to do things her way, and I know she will bring some well-judged and respectful innovation to her role as Lord Mayor.

He said: "It is a great start that she has chosen a humanist celebrant as her chaplain for the year, which I understand is a first for our city and a chance to show in our open and inclusive city that we embrace people of all faiths and none."

He also revealed that Cllr Boyce planned to bring her Scottish Terrier Maisie with her on many official engagements this year, adding the first 'canine citizen' to the civic party.

Cllr Boyce, a former teacher plans to make Refugee Action York one of her charities for the year, and has told in the centre pages of The Press today how she is determined to make a stand during her year of office against intolerance and prejudice.

Outgoing Lord Mayor Dave Taylor was thanked yesterday for the good humour and the 'unique style' with which he had conducted his year in office, during which more than £40,000 was raised for the Lord Mayor's charities, York LGBT Forum, York Racial Equality Network, St Nick's, and York Civic Trust. He spoke of his pride at being York's first Green Lord Mayor.

Earlier, a minute's silence was held in memory of the 'Manchester terrorist attack, and people were asked to remember the York couple who were killed and anyone else affected.

After the ceremony, the civic party processed to Star Inn the City for the traditional reception, because the usual venue, the Assembly Rooms, was unavailable due to problems with the ceiling.

The choice of venue has been criticised as too expensive during austerity by Independent councillor Mark Warters, who did not attend the meal.