Peterborough council leader announces shock retirement

The leader of Peterborough City Council has announced his shock retirement from local government after more than 40 years.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 12:00 pm
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 5:37 pm

Cllr John Holdich, Peterborough’s longest serving councillor, said that it had been one of the hardest decisions of his life not to stand for re-election in May, but admitted he has been struggling with arthritis and wants to spend more time with his wife Barabara.

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John Holdich

He has served as council leader since 2015 after taking over from Cllr Marco Cereste, and prior to that led cabinet portfolios for education and housing. The 75-year-old entered the world of politics in 1977 at the age of 33.

Cllr Holdich, who represents the ward of Glinton and Castor, said: “It has been an incredibly hard decision to make, but after talking it through with my wife Barbara and my family I feel that now is the right time.

“Although I feel fit and well enough right now to continue, if I was lucky enough to be re-elected for a further four years this would be too long. I suffer from arthritis which can make life quite painful for me at times, and it is a progressive condition so it will only get worse.

“I would love to remain as leader; there are so many exciting projects happening across the city and so much on the horizon that will put Peterborough on the map. But the time has come to put myself and my family first and allow Barbara and I time to achieve some of the things on our bucket list whist we are still able to.”

Local government is in Cllr Holdich’s blood. His father Fred Holdich was a councillor for 47 years and there has been a Holdich on one council or another since 1880. Holdich Street in West ward was named after his great-great grandfather in 1886.

But remarkably, despite his long service, the council leader said he had had no burning desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and he only agreed to stand as councillor as a paper candidate for the old Minster ward on Cambridgeshire County Council, which is now part of Central ward, in 1977.

But to his huge surprise he won the election, and then in 1979 he took on further responsibility after being elected a councillor for Peterborough City Council, which at the time was a district council.

In 1981 he lost his county council seat, while remaining on the city council, but was back again as a county councillor in 1988 representing 23 rural villages until 1997 when the unitary authority of Peterborough City Council was constituted. Since then he has represented the rural villages including Glinton and Castor.

Cllr Holdich and his wife Barbara, who he has been married to for 54 years, were Mayor and Mayoress of Peterborough in 1995/96 and Deputy Mayor and Mayoress in 1988/89.

He has also served as a Glinton parish councillor since 1979 - 20 of those years as chairman – and as chair of governors at City College Peterborough for 42 years which has been rated good by Ofsted for the past decade and provides access to education for 3,000 people every year.

More recently he has served as deputy mayor of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority since 2015.

He was also chairman of the Peterborough Conservative Association for 12 years and campaign manager to the late Brian Mawhinney who served as MP for Peterborough from 1979 to 2005.

Among his highlights was receiving an OBE from Prince Charles in 1996, and raising £37,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society and Arthritis UK as mayor, a record he held for more than 10 years.

He says he is most proud of his work with young people and those with disabilities, for example the adult training centre in Eye, Changing Days, which he helped set up to assist people with learning difficulties to gain independence and employment.

He is also proud of the project to transfer of the council’s housing stock to Cross Keys Homes, which he led in the cabinet and which he says has given residents a better standard of home.

Cllr Holdich has two children, Simon and Lisa, and five grandchildren.

He added: “I think what I will miss the most about being a councillor is having the ability to help people. That said I plan to keep in contact with some fantastic council officers, many of whom work tirelessly across our communities, so that I can still help people where I can.

“I am proud to have had the privileged opportunity to shape what our city looks like now and in the future. I hope I have left a city that is a better place to live, work and visit, is more vibrant, provides more opportunities for its residents and is the kind of place people want to invest in. I am particularly proud of the development we are seeing across the city centre and the progress we are making with the combined authority on delivering a University of Peterborough.

“I believe that Peterborough’s future is incredibly bright and that the time is now for us to take the city to the next level. I will be keeping an eye on things, that’s for sure!”