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Obituary: Colin Walton

Obituary: Colin WaltonWe are saddened to report the recent death of former Fylde Borough Councillor, latterly Honorary Fylde Alderman, and Lancashire County Councillor, Colin Walton  who represented Ashton Ward in St Annes for many years.

Originally from Todmorden, he first came to the Fylde as a child when his father's employment brought the family here, but they then moved away again to east Lancashire before he later came back to the Fylde in connection with his own work.

He was one of the 'old school' councillors who espoused firm and traditional Conservative views that sat well with those that elected him in Ashton Ward (though perhaps less well with his brother, who was a former Labour Mayor of Todmorden).

As an adult, the then Mr Walton taught in Colne, where he met his future wife. He was later appointed to Carr Hill School in Kirkham where he was Head of Science. He also dispensed careers advice for the whole area.

When he first became a Councillor, civic life was very different than it is today.

The Council as a body corporate was widely respected, both by individual Councillors, and by the public at large. It behaved more like an oversize Parish Council, with all its Councillors taking personal responsibility for its decisions and an active part in both making them, and making them work.

Soon after his election, Cllr. Walton began to develop interests in the Environment and in the Tourism and Leisure Committees. He was not afraid to be outspoken, and to disagree in public with the 'party line' - sometimes voting against it in Committee. In this sense he was exactly the sort of Councillor we respect.

He believed was elected by his constituents as an individual, and he saw his first responsibility to them, not to the party of which he was a member. Thus the electorate of Ashton Ward elected him as a person, not a party apparatchik, and it was a almost a forgone conclusion that he would be re-elected each time.

That all changed of course when the Commissar took control. His iron will would brook no dissent from party members and Cllr. Walton had to decide whether to follow St Barbara Pagett's lead and take the path of independence, or to accept the party whip - even where he disagreed (and we suspect there would be many instances of that). He chose to stay within the party, using abstention rather than a speech or a vote against, to register his disagreement.

We believe this was a decision that eventually cost him his seat at Fylde Council. He came to be seen as part of the party machine, not the independently minded Councillor with his own views that everyone had voted for. Eventually, he failed to win enough votes to be returned as a Borough Councillor.

He was very upset when this happened, all the more so because after that election, he was due to have been Mayor (the Mayoralty is chiefly determined by your length of service as a Councillor) and he was denied this honour because he was not elected. He was very angry, saying that his electors had let him down and blaming political opponents who, he said, should not have stood as candidates against him in his mayoral year, and even blaming counterbalance at one point.

Little of this was meant seriously, it was just blind hurt at being denied the Mayoralty after so many years in office as a Councillor.

As you might imagine, these outbursts did not endear him to those at whom they were directed and, as we reported in 'Shuffling the Pack'  soon afterwards, he was de-selected from his County Council seat by the Commissar, and a younger model (Cllr. Karen Buckley) was chosen as the Conservative county council candidate for St Annes North. In the event, she did not win, so the Conservatives lost a County seat to Cllr. Howard Henshaw.

Whilst the end of Cllr. Walton's civic career was a troubled time for him, at his zenith, he was one of the leading councillors of his intake. We most especially remember his doggedness over the Ashton Gardens car park on St Georges Road.

In the late 1980's a sewer renewal scheme went through St Annes, disrupting traffic and parking for many months. At the request (chiefly) of Jonathon Taylor, the Council decided to ease the parking pressure by creating two temporary car parks in Ashton Gardens for the duration of the works. A gap was made through the wall off St George's Road and the grass area (used for crowning the Carnival Queen, but formerly a children's playground and originally tennis courts) was stoned over to make a parking area.

This car park was not wildly popular with visitors because of the cheap rough stone surface, but it was popular with shop workers (especially J R Taylors) who used it extensively. This left the roadside spaces that they had been using, for shoppers.

After the sewer works were finished, the officers sought permission to reinstate the grass area and the wall, but Cllr. Eileen Hall who chaired the Leisure Committee (and was a keen supporter of J R Taylor) proposed that the car park be made permanent. The Leisure Committee followed her lead, although Cllr. Walton dissented.

He dissented even more strongly when the minutes of the Leisure Committee were put to full Council for review.

He had grown increasingly concerned that the land was public open space and should not become, in effect, what he saw as a personal car park for J R Taylor's staff.

He spoke well at Council and his argument won the day. The matter was returned to the Leisure Committee for further consideration.

Over several months it grew into one of Fylde's longer-running sagas.

It was probably considered in Committee six times, and each time the decision reversed the previous one. In the end it became a battle of wills between Cllr. Walton and Cllr. Mrs. Hall. It was also one of the few instances where she lost her argument. The points made by Cllr. Walton carried the day and the grass area and wall was re-instated to its original form - as it remains today.

Having said that he missed out on the Mayoralty, he had previously done a stint as Deputy Mayor, and did it very well.

We recall an early address he made where he had pulled together all the international things Fylde was internationally famous for (international golf courses, international sand yacht racing, an internationally important estuary for birds and several other examples). We remember thinking how well he had done and how much we all tend to undervalue this area.

In recent years he suffered from poor health, and was apt to tell anecdotes repeatedly. He battled on bravely - as you would expect from a fighter like him - but lost the fight just before Christmas.

He was a strong churchman, and instrumental in having the Easter Cross erected in St Annes square for several years by the inter-faith coalition of St Annes churches.

So Fylde has lost yet another traditionalist, a man of firm conviction and a staunch conservative whose views were tempered with Christian kindness and a willingness to support those in society that were in trouble but trying their best to get out of it.

As a man he will be missed by many, but his support for true democracy, and the values he espoused, are a loss to us all.

His funeral service is on 6th January at  St Annes Parish Church.

Dated:   30 December 2009


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