Councillor John Vereker has announced his decision to step down at the next county council elections.
The councillor for Caldecott division will be retiring from council duties having been a county councillor for 48 of the last 52 years.
In that period he has missed only one regular meeting of the full council, that when he was studying local government in Nairobi, Kenya.
When he was elected in 1961, the year John F Kennedy was inaugurated as US President, Caldecott was half of its current size, as boundary changes over the half century have altered the local political landscape.
Cllr Vereker’s earliest post was as Chairman of the newly-created Social Services Committee before he went on to set up the committees for Performance Review and Planning and Transportation. Among the many notable landmarks of his career in local politics, he was the last
person to be made a county alderman in 1971 before the post was abolished in the Local Government Act, in 1974.
He held numerous roles in the county council before becoming chairman, suddenly and unexpectedly, when the incumbent Cllr Rupert Kettle was killed in a motor accident on the eve of a full County Council meeting. As Vice-Chair, the shocked Cllr Vereker took the chair. One of his first duties was to welcome Pope John Paul II to Warwickshire.
He then went on to become leader of the council for a short period in 1985 followed by a full term from 1989 – 1993.
During this period, Government-appointed auditors described Warwickshire as ‘one of the most efficient councils in the country’. In 1995, he was appointed CBE for his services to Warwickshire.
Possibly his defining moment in local government came in the early nineties when he successfully opposed the ‘capping’ of the county council’s budget, winning the argument that the funding formula was flawed.
He became the unofficial spokesperson for the issue, appearing on Newsnight and various programs on BBC and Channel 4 over the next two years. So closely was he associated with the issue that he heard from a civil servant that, whenever Whitehall was discussing financial
matters, the question ‘How does it affect Warwickshire?’ was asked.
Retirement from the council will not mark and end to John Vereker’s involvement in public life. He has been committed over the years to Overslade Community Centre and has played a major role in its ongoing development. He will continue to support the centre.
Cllr Vereker said: “It has obviously been an incredible period as I have witnessed enormous changes in the decades I have been a councillor. It has never been anything other than interesting and rewarding. The people I have met and the changes I have been part of have been my reward for the
time I have put in.”
Cllr Alan Farnell, Leader of the Conservative Group, said: “John Vereker will rightly be held in high regard for many years as a man who gave a lifetime of devoted service to Warwickshire. It is a cliché to say it but I wonder if we will ever see the likes of the man again. We wish him all
the best in his retirement and thank him for all he has done.”