A salute to Ivan's 50 years representing Blackpool

Blackpool councillor Ivan Taylor now, an early picture of him in office, and some of his campaign leaflets from over the years
Blackpool councillor Ivan Taylor now, an early picture of him in office, and some of his campaign leaflets from over the years
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A community leader is set to become Blackpool’s longest ever serving councillor when he marks 50 years representing residents.

Coun Ivan Taylor is due to reach the milestone on March 11 when it will be more than five decades since he was first elected.

Ivan Taylor will become Blackpool's longest-serving councillor in history on March 11

Ivan Taylor will become Blackpool's longest-serving councillor in history on March 11

It is an achievement only matched by Sir John Bickerstaffe, the former mayor who helped build Blackpool Tower.

He served from 1880 to 1930 but died just months before reaching his 50 years.

Coun Taylor has witnessed political change, overseen Blackpool’s move to a unitary authority running its own services and continues to serve on the cabinet.

The 79-year-old is due to stand again in his ward of Claremont at this May’s local elections.

He said: “I love this town and although I didn’t expect to be on the council for 50 years, I’m very happy I have done this.

“My phone never stops ringing, and even on Christmas Day people can ring you.

“But if you do manage to fix someone’s problems, that’s a very nice feeling.”

Coun Taylor was first elected in 1966, aged 26, representing Labour, and almost left the council after just three years when he stepped down in 1969.

But in 1971, he was back in after a by-election and has had unbroken service ever since.

He recalls: “We only had 10 Labour members on the council then, and in 1976 there were just six.

“But our numbers gradually went up and in 1991 Labour took control of the council for the first time in history.”

Coun Taylor went on to lead the Labour group and the council, but showed his mettle early on when as a 26-year-old he challenged the authority of powerful alderman Leonard Broughton.

“I was at the bottom of the pile, but one of the committees I was on was cleansing which included refuse collections.

“Inspectors came in and about half the refuse lorries were taken off the road because they weren’t safe.

“This caused a big problem which went back to the finance committee chaired by alderman Leonard Broughton.

“I called for his resignation, and everyone looked at me in shock because I was the youngest councillor.

“He got up and blasted me back, and it was at that point I realised politics was a bit of a dirty business.

“But it didn’t put me off and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.”

Today the council is run on a leader and cabinet system with decisions mainly made by the executive and other councillors given a scrutiny role.

But previously every member voted during the decision-making process - usually along party lines.

Except when the future of Blackpool Football Club was at stake and then other loyalties came into play.

Coun Taylor remembers: “In 1986 Blackpool FC was going bust and they were asking the council for a loan.

“The Conservatives were in control and didn’t want to give the loan, but I proposed that we should give it.

“The Conservatives decided to give everyone a free vote and a lot of the Conservatives were Blackpool fans so my proposal was carried and they got the loan.

“And this kept them going until Owen Oyston bought the club.”

However looking back Coun Taylor believes the best decisions for the town were not always made - particularly when it came to protecting the holiday industry.

He said: “Back in the ‘60s Blackpool was still very much a favoured holiday resort, and I mean for long stays not just weekends and short breaks.

“But it was feeling the heat when I came on the council with people starting to choose places like Spain instead.

“I don’t think the council at that time really took advantage of what they could have done. They just sat on it and thought holidaymakers would keep on arriving.

“Little was done in terms of infrastructure and we paid the price for that.

“But in the past few years that has changed and we can see the infrastructure that has gone in.

“A lot of the North West towns have done nothing, but in Blackpool there is huge investment and things are going on.

“I don’t under-estimate the problems we have in terms of poverty and transience, but we have done a lot of work including with the government to find solutions.”

In 1998 Coun Taylor was leader of the council when Blackpool secured unitary status.

He said: “Becoming a unitary authority was a big help as it gave us access to the government and other agencies.

“We had particular problems but getting money from Europe etc was much easier.

“A feasibility study was carried out into extending the unitary authority into Fleetwood and Cleveleys.

“We found the people of Fleetwood liked the idea because they felt Wyre was run from Poulton and that Fleetwood was being neglected.

“Nothing came of it but we do now co-operate much more with our neighbours and for example an economic prosperity board has been set up.”

Politics has also been a family affair with Coun Taylor’s wife Sylvia previously serving on the council, and grandson Luke being elected in 2015 in Mereside.

Luke is standing down in May because his job has taken him out of the area.

However Ivan, who also spent 30 years working as an engineer at BAE Systems, is hoping his constituents return him to office once more.

He is philosophical about the election process despite being an old hand at fighting them.

He concludes: “I have never been one of those people who dread losing elections.

“The important thing is what you stand for. If you put forward what you believe in and they don’t vote for you that’s their choice.

“That’s democracy. But it doesn’t mean you’re wrong.”

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn described his colleague as “legendary”.

He added: “I first met him when he was Mayor in 2002, and have been fortunate enough to have worked closely with him ever since.

“His encyclopaedic knowledge of how the council and the town has worked over the years, the people, the personalities, the stories he can tell are all fascinating.

“After 50 years of public service, he’s still a vital part of the work we do at the council and I wouldn’t be without him.”

Coun Taylor's 50 years of service

++ First elected in 1966 to represent Talbot ward, but stood down in 1969.

++ Re-elected on March 11 1971 at a by-election in Bispham ward.

++ 1973 elected to Talbot ward, which later became Claremont under a reorganisation of boundaries, and has represented Claremont ever since.

++ Leader of the Labour group for 30 years and was council leader for nine years until 2000.

++ Mayor in 2002.

Other long-serving councillors

Sir John Bickerstaffe was elected in Brunswick ward on November 1 1880 and served until March 1 1887 when he was appointed as an alderman, a position he held until his death on August 5 1930, aged 82 years.

Eli Howe was elected in 1909 and served until 1954 but was an alderman from 1925 which is not a position elected by the public.