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Tributes paid to former West Norfolk Council leader John Dobson after death at 86

Tributes have been paid to a former council leader who “put the good of the public before political interest” after he died last month.

John Dobson became a West Norfolk councillor in 1999, before taking up the role of council leader in 2003.

Mr Dobson died on Tuesday, January 23 at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital aged 86.

John Dobson died on January 23
John Dobson died on January 23

He was known for being involved in the campaign against the Saddlebow incinerator.

Tributes have also been paid to the former council leader during a full West Norfolk Council meeting last Wednesday.

During the meeting, Father Adrian Ling thanked him for “his leadership of this council, for his integrity and for putting the good of the public before political interest”.

John Dobson at Snettisham beach
John Dobson at Snettisham beach

Meanwhile, Lord Henry Bellingham, former North West Norfolk MP, said: “The news regarding John Dobson was a very sad day for Lynn and West Norfolk. He was a truly remarkable public servant.

“First of all, he had a very successful army career, the pinnacle of which was serving as Defence Attaché in Mexico.

“Secondly, he was an inspirational and highly regarded leader of West Norfolk Council for eight years. This was then followed up by two distinguished terms on the county council.

“As well as overseeing numerous major improvements across the borough, he was also played a pivotal role in stopping the proposed Saddlebow incinerator.”

Cllr John Dobson
Cllr John Dobson

Mr Dobson was previously the chairman of Old Hunstanton Parish Council.

Charles Joyce, a Labour councillor on West Norfolk Council, also paid tribute to Mr Dobson as a “unique character who earned the highest respect of his political opponents”.

He said: “It is often said that in the political field the recognition of a man comes not from his allies but from his opponents.

“Before becoming a councillor John Dobson had served a long career in the diplomatic corp becoming the highest ranked military officer.

“He was very proud of being a full colonel which earned him the nickname of ‘the colonel’.

“Speaking many languages including, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese he was at times ‘our man in Cuba’ which enabled him during a council meeting to fully explain to the then-Labour leader, Dave the Commissar Berry, the role of the Defence of the Realm Committees.

“As a councillor he showed himself to be not just a friend of South Lynn, but a warrior brother when he vociferously and resiliently stood by us all opposing a mass burn incinerator against his fellow Conservatives at county hall.

“As leader of West Norfolk Council, he initiated plans that culminated in Hardings Way providing a traffic free route into the town centre that allowed the Nar Ouse Regeneration Area to progress and reducing pollution on London Road.

“He introduced free swimming sessions for local young people and completed the transfer of council housing to a new local housing association, securing over £10 million for the borough council from Government along with paving the way for Freebridge to invest £200 million into the housing bringing it up to what is termed the decent home standard with modern kitchens and bathrooms, double glazed windows and every home centrally heated.

“There are two things for which I most remember ‘the colonel’. After spending £25,000 on his own legal fees to successfully defend his reputation following an allegation he breached the councillor’s code of conduct.

“Understanding not every councillor has such financial resources to defend their reputation he introduced an insurance policy specifically to allow borough councillors access to free legal advice when accused of breaching the code of conduct.

“This policy was correctly used by one borough councillor but for some unfathomable reason denied to Simon Nash in the most recent case.

“The second is when in January the then Labour Government awarded over £5 million to help areas of Lynn that had been left behind with the caveat that money had to be spent by April. John Dobson beat me to the solution.

“His answer to what seemed an impossible task was simple yet effective.

“The money to be loaned to the borough council and repaid the following year giving residents and local government representatives time to decide the best way to spend the money.

“Maybe it was his military training that enabled him to adapt and innovate. But whatever it was John Dobson was a unique character who earned the highest respect of his political opponents.”

An announcement published in The Telegraph states that Mr Dobson’s funeral will take place on Monday, March 4 at St Mary’s Church in Old Hunstanton at 2pm and to contact _alex@hotmail.com regarding attendance.

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