Longstanding councillor Roger to stand down

November 29 2018
Longstanding councillor Roger to stand down

In May next year, for the first time since South Glos was formed in 1996, Filtonians will not have the opportunity to vote for Roger Hutchinson.

In May next year, for the first time since South Glos was formed in 1996, Filtonians will not have the opportunity to vote for Roger Hutchinson.
In every election since, he has been returned as a councillor and held off the opposition - including a certain Jack Lopresti by just 18 votes in 2007.
His years of service, including 16 years on the Filton Town Council, have been marked by notable achievements and more than a few controversies along the way.
The South Glos election in May, however, will not have his name on the ballot paper.
Roger is standing down after boundary changes left Filton with just two seats on the council. Standing councillors Ian Scott and Adam Monk will contest the election for Labour.
It will be the end of an era, with Roger a familiar face not just in politics but in supporting many local organisations.
In his time, he was heavily involved in the creation of the Shield Retail Park, the redevelopment of the old 'Dolphin' Pool and the creation of the WISE campus of South Glos and Stroud College.
He said: "I am sure I will miss it, especially as there is so much exciting stuff going on in Filton.
"For much of my work, it's been the personal issues with residents which gives me satisfaction, like concerns over kerbs outside their houses.
"But there have also been some significant projects. When the Shield Centre was being built, the developers were worried over planning guidelines which said no roads could come off the Ring Road.
"So I helped them get round that by suggesting to them that Filton needed a new library building and that they might offer to build one for us. By doing this it paved the way for building the shopping centre.
"Another notable piece of work was the creation of the WISE Campus which required a lot of discussion with the former Filton High School and the education department."
He was also prominent, as town council chairman, in the refurbishment of the swimming pool at Elm Park, still known affectionately as 'The Dolphin'.
He said: "At the time we were berated over the £1.25m cost but my answer was always that if just one life was saved because a child learned to swim then it was money well spent."
Another achievement was the building of a skate park at Elm Park although the cycle speedway track, at a cost of £50,000, which started well, has since been a failure and has hardly been used for  the purpose it was designed for.
Roger says the town council made a mistake by trying to charge for the track use. The council argued that it could not have one activity being free while charging for others.
He was also involved in a very public row with fellow Labour councillors in 2010 over plans to re-profile Elm Park. Roger said the deal with waste firm Churngold would have transformed  Elm Park by levelling sports pitches and introducing better landscaping and drainage.
His opponents said the contract was not sound and there were fears over the impact of lorries dumping waste on Elm Park, concerns from residents and environmental worries, although it had planning permission and support from the waste and minerals local planners.
The dispute led to disagreements with Labour councillors which led to Roger having to address a number of accusations against him at the Standards Committee of South Glos, although he was subsequently cleared of verbally abusing one of them at a Town Council meeting.
Roger has been involved in the Labour movement since he joined the party aged 15 in Milton Keynes.
Originally from Plymouth, he grew up in Buckinghamshire. His mother was branch secretary of the local Labour Party and Roger, after working for 10 years in the 1970s for the Amalgamated Engineering Union in London, eventually got his first job for the Labour Party as a regional organiser in Surrey, rarely a happy hunting ground for the party.
During this time he helped a young candidate in his first election. The candidate lost that time, 1982, in a by-election in Beaconsfield, but would go on to be one of the most long serving Prime Ministers in British history - Tony Blair.
Roger has stayed friends with Mr Blair and his wife Cherie ever since.
In 1987 he secured a similar job in Bristol, covering Devon and Cornwall.
This led to his selection and election to the new South Glos Council in 1995, in the former ward of Filton Charborough.
It was around this time he was also elected chair of Filton Town Council, where he remained until 2011.
Roger, a staunch part of the Blairite wing of Labour, says local democracy functions best with party politics. This conflicts with the claims in some quarters that politics at town or parish level should be free from party ties.
He said: "People say party politics doesn't work but it formalises the council.
"As deputy leader of South Glos I had to work with other parties. But whatever your party affiliation, the important thing is to be honest in politics."
On life after council politics, Roger said he would support his beloved Plymouth Argyle as well as Bristol City Women, and continue his love of péntanque (boules) with Filton Pentanque Club at Elm Park.
He is also a strong advocate for animal rights.
On Facebook, residents have been remarking on his plan to stand down, right.
Ken Hoare: He was a great help in supporting me when I went for Filton Town Council election and also he managed to get the parking restrictions in my area. He was a great help in all of these things. Thank You Roger for all your work.
Jayne Bakos: Roger is fantastic, he’s always responsive to questions, really nice guy which is unusual for a politician!
Debbie Teml: Roger has been greatly supportive of me personally, and of the youth centre over many years, He was a member of the youth centre management committee up until 2014 when the new charity took over and he decided to not stand as a trustee.
Cheryl Stone: The only councillor that appears to take the time to help the people that matter. It's a loss to us that he is stepping down but I wish him well.
Fi Cantillon: Such a shame. Roger has always been approachable and very informative. If there is an issue he gets action happening.
Sam Rawle: Met him when I used to be a member of the Mortimer Road Allotment Association. Always thought he was a councillor for all the right reasons - to do his bit for the local community. He was pragmatic and fair but certainly did his bit to help us improve the facilities on the allotment. I wish him well for the future.