Controversial former Peterborough City Council leader Neville Sanders dies

Neville Sanders

Neville Sanders

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Characters like Neville Sanders do not exist any more, according to his son, after the former Peterborough City Council leader passed away aged 85.

A titan of politics in Peterborough for two decades, the outspoken Mr Sanders was no stranger to controversy which often landed him in trouble, but also delighted his constituents in Newborough who re-elected him with huge majorities.

The Conservative politician and businessman passed away on Friday morning (August 26) at Peterborough City Hospital. His death was sudden but not surprising after years of dialysis for his kidneys.

His son David Sanders is the current Mayor of Peterborough and councillor for the ward of Eye, Thorney and Newborough.

Paying tribute to his dad, he said: “He was invaluable, he taught me the university of life and how to be a survivor and a lot of stuff I will hopefully take on into my adult life.

“He was ridiculously hard working and had the capability to understand the most complex issues with ease.

“I think his legacy is he took a bankrupt council which was in the red and brought it into the black with no overall control with the help of a couple of opposition people.

“If you look back in history, the Labour council threw the towel in and said ‘you run it if you know better’.

“He said and did some controversial things. His legacy will be remembered by different people in different ways.”

Mr Sanders was first elected to represent Newborough in 1987 and within three years he had risen through the ranks to lead the Conservative group.

He took over as leader of the council in 1999.

However, Mr Sanders was involved in numerous controversies.

In 1990, he found himself in the dock at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court after the then council leader Charles Swift claimed he had punched him. The charge was dropped and the councillor agreed to be bound over to keep the peace.

Mr Sanders was photographed by this paper’s photographers flicking the V-sign towards Labour opponents during a local election count at the Town Hall in 1999, and there were also accusations of racist, sexist and homophobic comments.

And in 2003 councillors voted to remove Mr Sanders from his role as leader following anti-Irish comments to the Belfast Telegraph.

He was then expelled by the national Conservative party, but the following year, after an appeal, a two-year disqualification from being a councillor, imposed by the Standards Board for England, was reduced to a prohibition on him leading the council for 12 months.

Mr Sanders, though, will also be remembered for putting his hand in his pocket to keep the Lido running in 1991 and 1992.

And in an example of his colourful behaviour, he was arrested after trying to step in as a ‘Good Samaritan’ after a couple were slapped with a parking ticket while they looked to find 50p to put in the meter.

The majority of Conservative councillors also believed he had done a good job driving forward the city centre master plan, and improvements in social services and finances.

Cllr Sanders added: “He used to put his hand in his pocket and subsidised projects he thinks were worthwhile. The pest control budget he paid for.

“And he never took any expenses. Personally I think he would speak out without fear or favour when perhaps others were too shy to.

“I do not speak out with such fear or favour now because the climate’s changed.

“In his day, in that era, speaking without fear or favour won him more votes than it lost. But in this day and age there’s not a place for that kind of character.

“My dad was the was the right man for the city council in that era.”

Neville Sanders lived in Peterborough all his life, starting in West Town with his father and four brothers, with the family growing up in near poverty.

After leaving school he spent 10 years in the Royal Navy before coming back and building up a successful haulage business.

Mr Sanders ran three businesses - NB Sanders Trailers Ltd, NB Sanders Car MOT and a property rental firm.

His son took over the running of the three businesses in 2010.

Cllr Sanders said he viewed his dad more as a businessman than politician.

“I have two fondest memories - him taking the time and trouble to teach me the ways of life and university of life,” he continued.

“But more than that the boating. Since I could walk I was on the sea. He was a big Royal Navy man and to this day I have a passion for boats.

“He worked hours and hours, it was ridiculous. I’ve always known my dad to work seven days a week. He was not one for holidays.

“Not very often you get characters like that any more. He’s marmite. He is a unique character - larger than life, confident.

“We have not got anybody quite like him.

“Because my dad started from nothing, I wanted to see that all his hard work does not go to waste.”

Mr Sanders moved to Newborough after marrying Christine, who passed away in 2004.

His 19-year political career came to an end when he lost his Newborough seat to David Harrington in 2006.

He is survived by his only son, David, and grandchildren Harry and Olivia.

The family will hold a small, private funeral.

Cllr Sanders said he will miss his dad now that he is gone.

“I will just shout out to the old man, but suddenly he is not around,” he added.