Ex-mayor fears for future of city council

Keith Sharp
Keith Sharp

He was born in Parliament Street so a life in politics was inevitable, but 22 years as a Peterborough city councillor is enough for Keith Sharp who fears for the authority’s future.

The former Mayor of Peterborough became the latest political stalwart to depart the Town Hall in the last two years - following on from Charles Swift, Adrian Miners and John Peach - after deciding not to stand for re-election in Dogsthorpe where he was a Liberal Party member.

cllr keith sharp standing for the council ENGEMN00120120413142731

cllr keith sharp standing for the council ENGEMN00120120413142731

The decision to step down was helped by the 63-year-old’s fears for the council’s future now that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has its own elected mayor, who runs a powerful authority separate to the city council.

“After 22 years I think I have done my bit. It’s been an interesting time and I’ve learnt a lot and achieved a lot, but politics is changing,” said Keith, who lives in New England. “I can see it’s going to be larger authorities. We have an elected mayor and the writing’s on the wall for smaller authorities.

“It won’t be the same as it is now. Local authorities looking after local people will be swallowed up in the new mayoral area and Cambridge will take the majority as it did before.

“In 2000 the local authority was making decisions. Now, local authorities have their hands tied up by central government.

“We’ve lost £100 million of government funding and that’s going to have an impact.”

Keith started out with Labour in Central ward in 1978 but later represented the Social Democratic Party and served as an independent during his two stints as a councillor. He warned: “Party politics is starting to rule and it’s not good for voters.”

Back in 1978 the council was a “completely different set-up” Keith recalled, adding: “In those days the councillors ran the council whereas now officers seem to be having more influence.”

But one thing which remains the same is the role of mayor, a position Keith held in 2010/11 and which he ranks as the highlight of his political career. “We are in a position where we can influence - if you do it right - the link between the public and the council. I believe in trying to bridge that gap to show we are trying to work together.”