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Councillor Richard Kemp set to retire after 45 years of service

Cllr Richard Kemp has retired after 36 years as a magistrate... (8161463)
Cllr Richard Kemp has retired after 36 years as a magistrate... (8161463)

One of Babergh’s longest-serving councillors, who helped establish the authority in 1974 when he was first elected, is to retire following the upcoming local elections.

Independent councillor Richard Kemp confirmed he will not stand in next month’s ballots and will step down as a representative for Long Melford and Alpheton – a seat he has held for the last 45 years.

He is also leaving the parish councils of the two villages, but will continue as the Suffolk county councillor for the area, until his current term ends in 2021.

Mr Kemp, of New Road in Long Melford, told the Free Press that “the time had arrived” to step away from the role, citing his wish to enjoy retirement, as well as the increased difficulties faced by local government.

“I have still got the energy to do the job, but I think the time is right,” he said. “I think you have to know when to pack it up.

“I was proud to be elected as a Melfordian councillor to the district council at the first attempt, and proud to represent the people I had grown up with in the two villages.

“My biggest enjoyment has not been the performance at meetings – it has been dealing with and helping people, and sometimes they send a thank you letter.

“That has always been the biggest reward through my 45-year career.”

First elected at the age of 30 as the then-youngest member, Mr Kemp, now 75, said his 10-year tenure as chairman of Babergh’s personnel committee, during which the council introduced performance-related pay for staff, was among his proudest achievements as a councillor.

But he argued the financial benefits available for councillors today had “overtaken the real altruistic reasons” that many members used to have for being in local government.

He also claimed influence of national government had damaged local authorities in recent years, and lamented the loss of financial support and the decline in the district council’s housing stock from 6,300 homes in the 1980s, when he was vice-chairman of the housing committee, to around 3,000 today, as a result of the Right to Buy scheme.

“Up to four years ago, Babergh District Council operated across national political affiliations, and then we worked as a team,” said Mr Kemp.

“People were made chairman of the council based on service and not on their politics. I did three years as Babergh district chairman. To the members in those days, that position had no connection with politics.

“Sadly, today, it is all about political whips and political dominance.”

Mr Kemp also questioned whether authorities like Babergh District Council would still exist in 10 years, in light of increased consolidation of public services in Suffolk, such as hospitals and schools being incorporated into trusts, as well as the centralisati on of magistrates’ courts.

He added that he intends to spend more time with his family, gardening and enjoying sports, through his involvement with Long Melford’s football and cricket clubs.

“I owe a huge debt to Blanche, my wife, and over the years to Rebecca, Nicholas and Adam, our children, who were very supportive in helping us,” he said.

“I place on record my thanks for all the support over the years from the people of Long Melford and Alpheton.”

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