Gallery: St Peter’s Church in March packed for funeral of Fenland councillor and former Mayor John West
ST Peter’s Church in March was packed today for the funeral of former Mayor and town, district and county councillor John West.
The Mayor of March, Councillor Andrew Pugh, members of March Town Council and the chairman of Fenland District Council, Councillor Ralph Butcher, were among those that followed the funeral procession from the market place to church.
Mourners included Mark Lloyd, the chief executive of Cambridgeshire Council; Sandra Claxton, chief executive of Fenland District Council; and the leaders of both councils, Councillor Jill Tuck and Councillor Alan Melton.
The funeral was conducted by the Rev Anthony Chandler, the rector of St Peter’s, who charted John’s career from a school boy in March through to his period working in Cambridge and London before returning to March.
“John was never one to give in, he always believed in seeing things through to the end,” said Rev Chandler.
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“He was someone will be remembered for his loyalty and someone who kept his friends”.
His widow, Carole, was unable to attend the funeral after being rushed to hospital yesterday.
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Rev Chandler described John as a “charmer and in some way a larger than life person but someone who was energetic and very proud of March”.
The service was followed by cremation at Fenland Crematorium in March.
JOHN Elworthy, editor of the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard, spoke at the funeral service, describing John as “the consummate political figure, a man of considerable weight and integrity who sought only what was best for the community”.
Mr Elworthy said: “Those of us lucky, privileged and I can honestly state honoured to have known him, can confidently state he was conceivably the most politically INCORRECT politician of his time.
“But he was one of the most hard working, dedicated and most diligent local councillors you could ever hope to find.”
Describing Cllr West’s time on the planning committee of Fenland Council, Mr Elworthy said: “John feared no-one and favoured no-one. Each planning application that came in front of him would be considered on its merits, would be questioned as to whether it seemed practical and sensible but mainly did it enhance his beloved Fenland.
“With knowledge, they say, comes power and whilst not in the driving seat as chairman he demonstrated that a back bencher, with an aptitude to absorb information quickly and comprehensively and to determine an opinion based on that absorption of knowledge, could exercise more influence and power than a row of committee or council chairmen.”
Mr Elworthy added: “He remained, as ever, an enigma and despite the frustrations he often endured within the political party he served all his life, he never once considered changing those allegiances.
“He knew his beliefs, he stuck to them, embraced them and he ploughed a (sometimes) lone furrow within his party to allow his thoughts to become actions, his words to resonate with wisdom and truth and passion, and in that regard he had made his political bed and was content to lie in it.
“One has only to look at his election successes – arguably and given the controversy that could be attached to him - to recognise the chord he struck among his constituents who repeatedly supported him through the ballot box and hence ensured his political continuity.”
MR Elworthy spoke of the time Cllr West was suspended for a month after raising his voice during a meeting with a council officer.
“It’s fair to say his voice - or at least the tone of his voice - could get him into hot water,” he said.
“John was mortified that his actions could have been misinterpreted as offensive but it’s indicative of the love and affection in which he was held that his constituents either ignored or overlooked his minor fall from grace by promptly electing him at around the same time to another position, as a member of Cambridgeshire County Council.
“Did John feel vindicated? He never said and probably never would. Triumphalism wasn’t part of his nature.
“The truth remains that if his colleagues on the county, district or town council wanted a job done then John was their man.”
OF his mayoralty year, Mr Elworthy said both John and Carole “brought dignity and honour to the role. There were difficulties and they cannot be denied”.
Mr Elworthy also said: “He never allowed those to hinder his commitment to duty, his passion and zeal for life, and the obligations he felt had been placed upon him for that period to be a champion for March.
“John was not a man to bear grudges, nor was he a man to think less of his fellow men even when they may have treated him unkindly.”
Mr Elworthy said of Cllr West: “You offered much and delivered more. This town, its councils, its people, will miss you greatly.”