Suffolk: Tributes paid to former county council leader Christopher Penn

FORMER Suffolk County Council leader Christopher Penn has died at the age of 75.

Mr Penn, who lived at Playford on the outskirts of Ipswich, was leader of the council and chairman of its policy committee for nine years from 1984 until the Conservatives lost power at the 1993 local elections.

He remained a member of the county council for a further eight years before retiring from local politics in 2001 – between 2000 and 2001 he was chairman of Suffolk Police Authority.

Mr Penn was born in 1937 and moved to Suffolk from Gloucestershire in 1957 having completed his National Service in the Royal Navy.

He started working for timber importers, but for most of his career worked as manager of companies manufacturing agricultural buildings in Ipswich and at Maldon in Essex – although he always lived in the Ipswich area.

Mr Penn was elected to Ipswich County Borough in 1964 and was a member of that authority, and the later borough council, until 1976. In 1978 he was elected to Suffolk County Council.

During his time as leader of the county there were frequent battles with Whitehall – and he was determined to maintain the finances in good order.

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Guy McGregor was appointed chairman of the highways committee during Mr Penn’s leadership. He said: “He always kept a close eye on what was happening in all areas of the council, but he was happy to let us get on with the work.”

Mr Penn’s son Jonathan said he remembered his father arriving home from work and having to turn around and go straight off to a council meeting somewhere.

He said: “He enjoyed his council work, and was proud of being the leader of the county council for nine years, which was quite a long period – but I think the role that he enjoyed the most might have been the time he spent chairing the police authority.”

Mr Penn leaves a widow, Maureen, three sons, Jonathan, William, and Edward, and three stepdaughters, Susan, Carole, and Julie, as well as many grandchildren.

His funeral is due to take place at Playford Church this afternoon.