Tributes paid to former council leader and MP who held an almost unparalleled record of public service
- Credit: Archant
Tributes have been paid to a “tremendously hard-working” former leader of Cambridgeshire County Council – and Norfolk MP - who has died aged 84.
John Powley died last week.
Mr Powley spent a lengthy career of half a century in public service, as leader of Cambridgeshire county and Cambridge city councils, and spearheaded the campaign to fully dual the A11.
Mr Powley, who died on October 16, 2020, was Cambridgeshire-born and played a vital role in the Grafton Centre’s construction.
Former colleagues paid tribute to his work ethic and “great impact” on East Anglian politics.
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Cllr Mac McGuire, chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council said: “Many of us knew and served with John. He was well known, respected at the council and was honoured with the title of alderman for his service. He will be truly missed by all.”
Baroness Gillian Shephard, former MP for South West Norfolk, said she had “happy memories” of Mr Powley as a “hard-working and committed” public servant.
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“He was tremendously hard-working and very straight-speaking,” she said. “What he thought was what you got – it was the way he had chosen to pursue his career. He was a highly effective MP – committed to fighting for the best for the people of Norwich and supportive of a vast number of causes.”
Remembering Mr Powley’s success in winning the Norwich South seat, which he held from 1983 to 1987, she said: “It was considered a great triumph.
“He won the seat from John Garrett (Labour) and we were expecting we would win Norwich North and were hopeful but not confident about Norwich South.
“I remember very clearly when we won both Norwich seats which was a great triumph for the party.”
Meanwhile, Mr Thompson, former Conservative MP in the city seat from 1983 until his retirement in 1987, said: “I’d like to pay tribute to John Powley as a colleague and friend during his time as an MP.
“He made a great impact in Cambridge and was selected to stand in Norwich South.”
He added: “I remember his valuable experience of local government in Cambridgeshire and his interest and enthusiasm for issues in Norwich and I know that he worked very hard for his constituents in Norwich South.”
Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, said: “John will be remembered as a committed public servant for Norwich and East Anglia.
“My thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Mr Powley lived in Soham with his wife Jill, until her death earlier this year.
The couple, who married in 1957, had three children, Stephen, Amanda, and Stewart.
Mr Powley held an almost unparalleled record of public service and on his retirement from the county council in 2013 received a standing ovation.
The county council agreed he should be honoured with the title of alderman – a title bestowed on an individual who, in the opinion of the council has rendered eminent service to the authority.
The then council leader Martin Curtis described him as “an excellent servant for many years and it will not be the same without his face somewhere around the chamber”.
Mr Powley was elected to the county council in 1967 and stood down in 1977 before being re-elected in 1997. During this time, he was senior councillor for social services for eight years, and corporate services - including finance - for two years. He served as vice chairman from 2009 before being elected chairman in 2011.
In 2013 Mr Powley decided not to stand for re-election to the county council, ending 50 years of public service.
He said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to represent and serve the diverse communities we have in the county.
“It has been a privilege to be chairman during such an exciting period, with the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics, the Paralympics and the royal visits.
“I have been proud of the achievements I have helped bring to Cambridgeshire and Norwich South over the last 46 years, including developing the Grafton Centre.
“I wish the new chairman every success and I am sure he will serve the council just as well as I tried to do.”
As chairman of the county council, he has performed more than 400 public engagements – most of them accompanied by his wife Jill.
In addition, he presided over 70 citizenship ceremonies, welcoming 2,000 new citizens into the county.
He met most senior members of the royal family, including welcoming the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their first visit to the city in November 2012.
He was a governor of Soham Village College for 12 years.