17th January 2020
Council leader announces his retirement after more than 40 years’ service.
If I can be half the person this man has been in our city I will count myself as extremely fortunate. He’s been one of my greatest mentors and along with many others I admire, taught me how to always give my best to serve the community. He and his wife Barbara have been sincere, caring and personal friends to Rita and I particularly with their support throughout Rita’s fight against cancer, something for which we will be eternally grateful. We wish them both a happy and healthy retirement.
The leader of Peterborough City Council, councillor John Holdich, has announced he will be standing down at the local elections in May after more than 40 years in local government.
Councillor Holdich, Peterborough’s longest serving councillor, said that it had been one of the hardest decisions of his life not to stand for re-election, but that the time was right for him to retire.
He has served as council leader since 2015 and prior to that led cabinet portfolios for education and housing. He entered the world of politics in 1977 at the age of 33.
Councillor Holdich (75) said: “It has been an incredibly hard decision to make but after talking it through with my wife Barbara and my family I feel that now is the right time. Although I feel fit and well enough right now to continue, if I was lucky enough to be re-elected for a further four years this would be too long. I suffer from arthritis which can make life quite painful for me at times, and it is a progressive condition so it will only get worse.
“I would love to remain as leader; there are so many exciting projects happening across the city and so much on the horizon that will put Peterborough on the map. But the time has come to put myself and my family first and allow Barbara and I time to achieve some of the things on our bucket list whist we are still able to.”
Local government is in Councillor Holdich’s blood. His father Fred Holdich was a councillor for 47 years and there has been a Holdich on one council or another since 1880. Holdich Street in West Town was named after his great great grandfather in 1886.
However, he had no burning desire to follow in his father’s footsteps and he only agreed to stand as councillor as a paper candidate for the old Minster ward on Cambridgeshire County Council, which is now part of Central ward, in 1977.
By huge surprise to councillor Holdich, he won the election and then in 1979 he took on further responsibility after being elected councillor for Peterborough City Council, which at the time was a district council.
In 1981 he lost his county council seat, whilst remaining on the city council, but was back again as a county councillor in 1988 representing 23 rural villages until 1997 when the unitary authority of Peterborough City Council was constituted. Councillor Holdich has represented the rural villages including Glinton and Castor ever since.
Councillor Holdich and his wife Barbara, who he has been married to for 54 years, were Mayor and Mayoress of Peterborough in 1995/96 and Deputy Mayor and Mayoress in 1988/89.
He has also served as a Glinton parish councillor since 1979 – 20 of those years as chairman – and as chair of governors at City College Peterborough for 42 years which has been rated good by Ofsted for the past decade and provides access to education for 3,000 people every year. More recently he has served as deputy mayor of the combined authority since 2015.
He was chairman of the Peterborough Conservative Association for 12 years and campaign manager to the late Brian Mawhinney who served as MP for Peterborough from 1979 to 2005.
Councillor Holdich has many career highlights, not least the OBE he received from Prince Charles in 1996 and his year as Mayor of Peterborough during which he and Barbara raised £37,000 for The Alzheimer’s Society and Arthritis UK, a record he held for more than ten years.
He says he is most proud of his work with young people and those with disabilities, for example the adult training centre in Eye, Changing Days, which he helped set up to assist people with learning difficulties to gain independence and employment.
He is also proud of the project to transfer of the council’s housing stock to Cross Keys Homes, giving residents at the time a better standard of home; a project he led as cabinet member.
Councillor Holdich, who has two children, Simon and Lisa, and five grandchildren, has lots to be proud of, but there is much he will miss about public life.
He said: “I think what I will miss the most about being a councillor is having the ability to help people. That said I plan to keep in contact with some fantastic council officers, many of whom work tirelessly across our communities, so that I can still help people where I can.
“I am proud to have had the privileged opportunity to shape what our city looks like now and in the future. I hope I have left a city that is a better place to live, work and visit, is more vibrant, provides more opportunities for its residents and is the kind of place people want to invest in. I am particularly proud of the development we are seeing across the city centre and the progress we are making with the combined authority on delivering a University of Peterborough.
“I believe that Peterborough’s future is incredibly bright and that the time is now for us to take the city to the next level. I will be keeping an eye on things, that’s for sure!”
Councillor John Holdich OBE