Sir John, a founder of Kent as it is now
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