Sir John, a founder of Kent as it is now

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

SIR John Gru­geon, a for­mer leader of Kent County Coun­cil and one of the county’s fore­most politi­cians, has died aged 81.

Sir John was a county coun­cil­lor for more than three decades and led KCC for nine years from 1973 to 1982. He was twice chair­man of the au­thor­ity, from 1989 to 1991 and again from 1997 to 2001.

He first be­came ac­tive in lo­cal pol­i­tics in 1967 when, en­cour­aged by the then Ash­ford MP Bill Deedes, he stood for and won what was the Ash­ford South seat on the county coun­cil.

He spent 30 years rep­re­sent­ing the divi­sion be­fore switch­ing to rep­re­sent Ten­ter­den be­tween 1997 and 2001, when he stood down.

He be­came deputy leader of KCC in 1971 and two years later took on the job of leader, pre­sid­ing over a pe­riod of wide­spread change in both lo­cal gov­ern­ment and the county. He was in­stru­men­tal in re­sist­ing ef­forts by the Labour gov­ern­ment to scrap Kent’s gram­mar schools at a time when they were un­der threat from Ed­u­ca­tion Se­cre- tary Shirley Wil­liams. Dur­ing his lead­er­ship, his in­flu­ence in­creased as he took on a se­ries of posts on var­i­ous na­tional bodies, in­clud­ing be­com­ing vicechair­man of the Con­ser­va­tive party’s na­tional ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee on lo­cal gov­ern­ment. He was knighted for ser­vices to lo­cal gov­ern­ment in 1980.

He had a four-year spell as chair­man of Kent Po­lice Au­thor­ity be­tween 1994 and 1998, and at the age of 71 took on an­other key role when he be­came the first chair­man of KCC’s scru­tiny com­mit­tee af­ter the coun­cil switched to a cab­i­net sys­tem.

Born in 1928, he was ed­u­cated at Ep­som Gram­mar School and Sand­hurst and was com­mis­sioned into The Buffs, the Royal East Kent reg­i­ment, in 1948, serv­ing in the Mid­dle and Far East. He worked in the City as a bank­ing ex­ec­u­tive.

He was ap­pointed a Deputy Lieu­tenant of Kent in 1986, serv­ing for 17 years, and was a gov­er­nor of Kingsnorth Pri­mary School for 20 years.

KCC deputy leader Cllr Alex King said: “He was one of the founders of mod­ern Kent, lead­ing the au­thor­ity in a way that set the scene for those that suc­ceeded him.

“He was a forth­right and de­ter­mined politi­cian, but also a gen­uinely nice guy.”

Sir Al­lan Wil­lett, the Lord Lieu­tenant of Kent, said: “Sir John did so much for Kent and his out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion will long be re­mem­bered.”

A memo­rial ser­vice is be­ing planned.

Sir John Gru­geon led Kent County Coun­cil for nine years

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