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Lib Dems’ chief to quit, but says future of party is bright

Alex Perkins is stepping down
Alex Perkins is stepping down

Canterbury’s outspoken Liberal Democrat leader Alex Perkins has announced he will not be standing for re-election in May. He says that after 16 consecutive years of serving on the authority he “deserves a rest”. But he believes his group still has the best chance in Kent of seizing control of a local council. Cllr Perkins was first elected in 1987 aged 23 and later took an eight-year break before returning to local politics and becoming leader of the authority in 2002 for three years. But this week the 51-year-old revealed he was taking a four-year break, saying:

“After 16 years of being a councillor, I deserve a bit of a rest and am very much looking forward to a few years off.”

Cllr Perkins, who represents Wincheap ward, has regularly clashed in the council chamber with Tory leader John Gilbey, who is also retiring from the council. Despite his party’s poor ratings in national polls, he says the local group has worked very hard for local people and has a good chance of winning a lot of seats. He said:

“I don’t think the national picture is reflected here in the Canterbury district and Ukip will undoubtedly take votes from the Tories. I would say our local party is in the strongest position in Kent to take control of a council. But hung councils are not necessarily a bad thing because we have seen the problems when one party has control and can act like a dictatorship.”

Reflecting on his time as a councillor, he added:

“It’s been lots of hard work, but lam proud to have been able to represent local residents and help them navigate through the bewildering mire of local government bureaucracy. We achieved a lot and, with the help of local residents, have fought for and won the end of the dictatorial cabinet and facilitated a return to all-party committees.”

Cllr James Flanagan, who is standing for the Lib Dems in the general election
Cllr James Flanagan, who is standing for the Lib Dems in the general election

Cllr Perkins is operations director for a chain of jewellery shops in Kent but says he is looking forward to spending more time following his beloved Arsenal and with his grandchildren. But he is also helping fellow Liberal Democrat James Flanagan, who is also leaving the council to fight his campaign to win the Canterbury and Whitstable parliamentary seat from Julian Brazier. Cllr Flanagan said:

“I want to show my full commitment to becoming MP for Canterbury and Whitstable so have decided to step down from the council to focus on this task. This has been a difficult decision for me, having represented the ward where I grew up since 2007, but I believe the Liberal Democrats are best placed to win the seat having been just 6,000 votes – in second place – behind Julian Brazier in the last election.”

Herne Bay Gazette, March 19th 2015

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