Meet the city’s
A NEW mayor has taken over the chains of office and set up residency in the wood-panelled grandeur of the parlour at the town hall. Deputy features editor HANNAH GRAY went along to meet Keith Sharp, and find out what makes him tick.
IN May, politics in Britain took a dramatic turn when the Coalition Government came to power.
Here in Peterborough, the changes to the city council were far less dramatic, but there was one significant alteration – the first non-Conservative mayor in eight years.
The man in question is Independent councillor Keith Sharp (55).
Keith is Peterborough born and bred. He grew up in Parliament Street and attended St Marks infant and junior schools and then Lincoln Road Secondary Modern. He has lived in New England since the age of 26.
And as much as Peterborough is in his blood, so is politics.
“My family had been in politics and been involved in politics for many years,” he said. “My father was very keen on going out and banging on doors and shouting through loud speakers.”
Keith was first elected to Peterborough City Council in 1978, aged 23, and at the time was one of the youngest members of the council. After his election, his father Bill, a keen Labour supporter, followed him on to the council.
Keith served as a councillor until 1982, when he left to spend time working with residents’ associations.
He also represented Peterborough on the Tenants and Residents of England committee, and helped to form West Fulbridge Residents’ Association, which is now known as Fulbridge Residents’ Association.
It was perhaps always inevitable, however, that he would return to politics, and in 2000, he was again elected to the council, this time as an Independent.
“I was disillusioned with party politics and felt that although I wanted to serve the people, party politics was not, in my opinion, the best way forward,” he said.
“I felt that being an Independent gave me the freedom to do more, say what I wished and represent the voters.”
After 10 years’ loyal service on the council, election to the office of mayor was not something Keith had been working towards.
“I’ve never ever aimed for it,” he said. “But I’m pleased and very happy to do the role because it gives me the opportunity to represent the city.”
Away from politics, Keith is taking a year off from his role as health and safety advisor/distribution supervisor for East Midlands Newspapers.
He is single, and in his spare time is a huge sports fan.
As a younger man, he played football, and he has also been a referee. He is a life member of the Peterborough and District Football League committee.
Keith is to be assisted in his mayoral duties by a long-standing friend, Doris Marchant, who will be his mayoress. She has lived in Peterborough for 58 years, and the pair know each other through various community groups.
Doris is very active in the local community already. She is the chairman of the Millfield Community Centre Association, is a member of the Fulbridge Residents’ Association and involved with the Salvation Army Good Neighbours scheme and the Parkway Club.
She is confident Keith is going to be a good mayor.
“He is good at what he does with his council work,” she said.
Doris revealed Keith is also very popular with the groups he works with.
“I defy anybody to go up to Blubebell Over 60s Centre or Becketts Close and say anything bad about Keith. Those ladies would set on that person!” she said. “They think he’s the best thing since sliced bread.”
Indeed, the older Peterborough residents are one of Keith’s key concerns.
In the speech he made on the day he became mayor, he said: “I represent a ward which has 33 per cent elderly residents, so I will be very keen to work closely with not only the elderly residents of the city, but the support groups on which many of them rely.
“My deputy and I also wish to do some inter-generational work to bring young and elderly residents together so that they can understand each other’s needs.”
As is traditional, Keith has chosen charities for which he will fund raise during his time in office.
These are charities which have personal links, or are issues he feels strongly about. The first of these is Diabetes UK. “Diabetes in this country is on the increase. Peterborough is above average. Whatever we can do to support and find ways of controlling or eliminating diabetes, I’m very keen to support,” he said.
Keith’s second charity is Macmillian Cancer Support, which he is championing for more personal reasons, as his brother Phillip received a lot of help from the charity when he was ill with liver cancer.
“The support he got from Macmillan was brilliant,” Keith said. “They don’t only support the patient, but they also support the family as well.”
Finally, his last charity is Peterborough War Memorial Fund, which is raising money for a new war memorial for the city.
Keith said: “Peterborough War Memorial is something that over the past 18 months previous mayors have been dealing with.
ON THE BALL: New mayor Keith at one of his first official functions, visiting Unity FC at the Embankment pitches.