OPINION: An introduction from Torridge council leader Ken James

North Devon Gazette

I started working life as an apprentice engineer in the car industry before progressing as a process planning engineer. My main involvement was with new car models taking them from design to production and specification for the assembly line. I worked quite extensively on the Morris Marina – a new model back then!Â

In the mid 1970’s I decided on a change in direction and with my wife and parents moved to Bridgerule in Torridge to start farming, something I had always wanted to try. I then spent many years dairy farming but recently sold the dairy herd and now rear beef cattle.Â

I’m not really sure how I got involved in community projects or local politics but I do remember my wife volunteered me to chair the local primary school PTA, which was quickly followed by stints on the parish hall committee, and village revel committee. This set the scene and I found myself then chairing the parish council for the next 25 years before the late councillor Des Shadrick persuaded me to stand for Torridge District Council, where I was elected to in 2005.Â

After serving as a District Councillor for 14 years (a second long apprenticeship!) I became leader of the council in 2019. In at the deep end, this coincided with a period of significant reorganisation and during the unique circumstances brought about by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. I am immensely proud of our councillors and officers, that as a team, we have managed to keep services running in difficult circumstances and of course with the cooperation from the public as well as our partners in other organisations.Â

During this time, we have distributed over £56 million in grants and supported funding to around 3,000 businesses and on top of this nearly 3,000 individuals. Despite the pandemic we’ve also made improvements to the slipway at Westward Ho! and built the spectacular new Visitor Centre at Northam Burrows to name just a few projects that were recently completed.Â

Hopefully, we can continue to work our way out of Covid and back to a sense of normality and I want to thank all organisations, including of course the NHS, for the fantastic way we have all pulled together to get to this point.Â

My ongoing work away from the council still keeps me busy and I continue to be involved as a trustee for the Youth Centre and Club in Holsworthy, and as a trustee of Holsworthy Property Trust (CLT) delivering affordable homes to local people.Â

I am further involved in Holsworthy Transport and the Ruby Country organisation promoting the area to tourists and visitors. I still have ambitions to progress the building of a new Environmental Centre in Torridge, and making a fresh start for Leisure through the setting up of the Council controlled Active Torridge company who will oversee all of our facilities from April next year.Â

Seeing Brunswick Wharf in Bideford built out and delivered is also on my to-do list. After that I hope to retire and spend more time with my family, which may sound like a politician talking, but which I am defiantly not! I look forward to sharing some other insights with you all in my future posts.Â