What it’s like to be Chairman of H D C

Born and bred in Leicestershire, one of my earliest childhood memories was of accompanying my father to the Council Offices in Thurnby. To a young child it felt like a place you didn’t mess about in. I knew it was an important place in my father’s eyes, but never understood why. I think he went there to pay his rates. 

Little did I know then that one day I would be a member of Harborough District Council, now with over 90,000 inhabitants and covering 230 square miles of land. In terms of land it is the largest district in the County. As a HDC Councillor for over sixteen years,

I have indeed been very privileged to be its Chairman twice, once in 2019 and again now from 2023 to 20 May. 

A Non Political Role

A Chairman’s job is no small undertaking. On election, you take over the Chairmanship of full Council. The role is non political, and you are regarded as the ‘conscience’ of Council. As First Citizen, you are required to present and greet Royalty visiting the District.

This appointment entitles you to wear the Chain of Office, but only in the District, unless you have permission from a Chairman elsewhere. Though this rule does not apply when attending a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. The appointment allows for the Chairman to be supported by a Consort.

Attending Events

I think my record of events attended per month is around twenty. At the very beginning of my year I attended several events celebrating the District’s Big Green Week, which included in Kibworth a visit to The Well and a service at the Methodist Church.

For me, it was a pleasure to be back in Kibworth where I went to school. The Scout Jamboree was a particularly enjoyable occasion. 

In Market Harborough, it was good to invite and thank representatives from the many volunteering groups from all over our District to the Council Chamber for a buffet lunch This included Mr Leonard Pizzy, from Kibworth, who single-handedly removes litter from the roadsides of the A6 in Kibworth.

It was also good to pay tribute to the amazing Austin Hobbs who for many years at an advanced age turned out to encourage and support Park Runners at Welland Park. The High Sheriff of Leicestershire, Mrs Henrietta Chubb JP, was delighted to join us for this event.

Getting Special Invitations

The amount of invitations can be daunting, and difficult choices have to be made. This year I had invitations to process at graduation ceremonies at both the University of Leicester and De Montfort University degree celebrations, the Law service at St Mary de Castro, representing the Council at funerals and switching on the Christmas tree lights in Market Harborough.

Chairman’s Chosen Charities

With the appointment of Chairman comes an opportunity to raise money for the Chairman’s chosen charity or charities.

This year I chose the Leicestershire Air Ambulance, whose area covers five counties including Leicestershire, and the Rutland, Leicester and Leicestershire Living Without Abuse, the proceeds of a Chairman’s Civic Carol Service and other charity events go to support their work.

Handing over to Councillor Peter Elliott

I have been delighted to represent the District. Many thanks for your wonderful welcomes and conversations. On 20 May in the Council Chamber, I hand over the Chairmanship to my Vice-Chairman Councillor Peter Elliott. If you have an event to which you would like to invite him, please email Chairman@harborough.gov.uk

Barbara Johnson