Terry Walker, former MP for Kingswood and a councillor for the town for the past 34 years, is to retire at the council election in May.
Labour’s Leader in South Gloucestershire, Councillor Pat Rooney, paid fulsome praise to Terry at his last Council meeting last night, describing his contribution as “tremendous”. The full text of Cllr Rooney’s speech is overleaf.
Terry Walker won election to the House of Commons in both elections held in 1974, participating in the exciting parliamentary events when Labour governed without a majority. He very narrowly lost the seat in 1979, and his public service was since been performed in local bodies.
Terry was elected to Avon County Council in 1981 and remained a member until its demise. In the same year he took the helm as chair of Avon Fire Authority, a position he has held ever since. He has been a councillor for the Kings Chase ward on South Gloucestershire Council for the entirety of the authority’s existence.
Councillor Pat Rooney’s speech to South Gloucestershire Council, 18 March 2015
“It is all too easy to talk about ‘the end of an era’, but with the retirement of Terry Walker it is undoubtedly true. Terry’s record in local government alone is enough to justify this. 34 years of continuous service to the people of Kings Chase. Boundaries have changed, councils have been abolished and created, but Terry remained, representing the people of Kingswood. And he has made a big contribution during that time, chairing Avon County Council, chairing Council committees here at South Gloucestershire and being our Labour Group’s deputy leader for our first 14 years.
Of course Terry’s local public service includes leading the Avon Fire Authority for the past 34 years as its Chair. Terry has shown his complete commitment to the fire service, ensuring good industrial relations locally, and he is widely respected. That is obvious from his being regularly re-elected when Labour was far from the largest party on the authority. Our Group is proud that one of our own has held this position, and this Council should be proud that a South Gloucestershire member has held the reins for so long. There is no doubt that his retirement will be keenly felt by the fire authority and the firefighters themselves.
Terry’s work on the fire authority was honoured by the West African country of the Gambia, which awarded him the Member of the Republic of the Gambia, similar to our MBE, rarely given to foreign nationals. This was for Avon Fire’s strong supportive relationship with the country over 20 years.
Of course Terry has given political service beyond local government, being elected twice as MP for Kingswood and serving this area in the House of Commons at the exciting time when the government had no majority. I know that one retirement gift that he would wish for is the return of a Labour MP for Kingswood sitting on the government side of the house.
All these roles are impressive, but they don’t fully capture Terry. By that I mean the strength of his personality. He is a “big fish” in whichever pool he works. He is one of those rare members of Council who the rest of us sit up and listen to without fail. It would be hard not to notice Terry when he is addressing Council! I know I can speak for members of all parties when I say that debates in this chamber will be the poorer without him.
I am reliably informed that Terry worked as an accountant at a brewery before he became an MP. He is someone who could organise. His contribution to the Labour and Trade Union movement in our area has been tremendous. But this is a goodbye, not an obituary, and the close friendships that we have developed with Terry and Rosalie won’t end today. Perhaps he will follow his former parliamentary colleague, Tony Benn, and use his retirement to spend more time on politics!
Terry is the only Labour councillor who will not be appearing on a ballot paper in 50 days’ time. Exactly how many of us come back depends on the scale of Labour’s sweeping gains at the election! So I would like to thank all of my colleagues, and especially any who do not return, for their work and commitment to our council and the people they have served, and wish them well for the future.”