Tributes to former Blackpool’s town clerk

Blackpool's former town clerk, Sir James Swaffield, worked in some of the highest positions in local government
Blackpool's former town clerk, Sir James Swaffield, worked in some of the highest positions in local government
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Tributes have been paid to a former resort town clerk who went on to work at the highest level of local government.

Sir James Swaffield worked as Blackpool’s town clerk between 1956 and 1962.

He struck me as a friendly and personable person

He went on to become secretary of the Association of Municipal Corporations (AMC), based in London, before working as director general of the Greater London Council (GLC), a position he held until 1984.

His role saw him cross paths with former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He died on July 4 , aged 91.

Today, former St Annes councillor Howard Henshaw paid tribute to a “friendly and personable gentleman.”

He added: “I personally met Jim Swaffield on several occasions while attending dinners and rambles with the Blackpool Old Scouts Association with my parents who, along with Jim and his wife, Betty, were enthusiastic members of the association.

“He always struck me as a very friendly and personable gentleman and a most articulate speaker, which obviously stood him in good stead in his career advancement.”

Born in 1924, Mr Swaffield went to school at Cheltenham Grammar School before studying for a degree to be a council solicitor.

After joining the town clerk’s department at Lincoln, he moved on to Norwich, Cheltenham and Southend, and in 1956 was appointed deputy town clerk of Blackpool.

Promoted to town clerk soon after, he became the youngest in any county borough.

He moved to the AMC in 1962 and the GLC in 1973.

In 1981 he would clash with Ken Livingstone, who seized control of the Greater London Council, before Margaret Thatcher attempted to abolish the body.

He was appointed Commander of the British Empire in 1971 and knighted in 1976.

He married Elizabeth Maunder in 1950.

They had two sons and two daughters.

Clashes with town’s chief constable

In 1958, Mr Swaffield was caught up in a dispute between members of the Blackpool’s watch committee and its chief constable, Harry Barnes.

A Methodist, Mr Barnes had devoted time in the force to trying to stop stand-up comic Frank Randle performing in the borough.

Randle’s death the year before had left a void in Barnes’s life and he decided to retire. The Watch Committee did not want to give him his pension two years early, and when Labour councillors told Mr Swaffield they were ready to force a special council meeting, Mr Barnes handed Swaffield his resignation, without waiting for the pension.

Mr Swaffield said: “I have still a lot to learn. But at least I know now why Blackpool people say so confidently that they belong to the leading holiday resort of the country. The determination of everybody that the town shall continue to progress is remarkable.”