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Terry Tonkin passes the baton after 44 years of service for St Ives

By The Cornishman  |  Posted: February 20, 2013

  • Terry Tonkin signs the Camaret-Sur-Mer twinning charter, with Tom Wright, town crier, and the mayor and president of Camaret.

  • Retiring from St Ives Town Council after 44 years of service - Terry Tonkin. Buy this picture: www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/buyaphoto

  • Terry Tonkin on St Ives Feast Day during his time as mayor in 1982.

  • Terry Tonkin as mayor of St Ives in the early 1980s.

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A ST IVES man who has served more than 40 years as a councillor for the town he loves has announced he will retire in May.

Terry Tonkin, aged 77, has served for 44 years both as a borough and town councillor for St Ives as well as serving on Penwith District Council and standing for Parliament twice.

The former PE teacher – one time head of PE at Humphry Davy School in Penzance and a PE teacher at St Ives School – has also been a fireman, a fisherman and a fish merchant in St Ives.

A councillor since he was 33, he has also been mayor of the town once and deputy mayor four times.

In a fascinating record of service, Mr Tonkin has even ridden a penny farthing bicycle to St Ives' twin town of Cameret-sur-Mer in Brittany to raise money for a breast cancer scanner.

Mr Tonkin also sits on the Craze and Hunkin Almshouse Trust which has recently built the latest two homes in a programme of building social housing in the town specifically for people from St Ives.

But he says his proudest moments have come in making a difference as a member of a team of St Ives councillors on town and borough councils and at County Hall.

He said: "I was very keen on Surestart. I really raised murder with regard to getting funding for St Ives. I worked tirelessly for the children's centre in St Ives."

He was also instrumental in the change to the traffic flow through the town in the 1980s.

"I was chair of the St Ives traffic plan in the 1980s," he says.

"The committee got some fantastic improvements like pedestrianising Fore Street and getting the improvements to Royal Square. I was very proud of that."

Now he is standing down – one of six councillors who will not stand again in May.

This will lead to an injection of new blood into an institution that Terry feels does a wonderful job for St Ives – and just at a time when they can really make a difference.

He said: "The main difference I have noticed in my 44 years is the demise of democracy due to centralisation.

"There was a time when a resident would knock on my door in Alma Terrace and say, 'Terry, I'm having a problem getting my bin emptied' and I would do down to the Borough Council and we would find a solution within an hour.

"We lost that. We shouldn't have lost the Borough and we shouldn't have lost Penwith District Council because then at least all you had to do was go to Penzance.

"Now it is extremely frustrating as a councillor trying to find solutions because it's all voicemail machines at County Hall but with the onset of the Localism Bill we are going to get control back and I look forward to that.

"St Ives is getting its Guildhall back and taking over its toilets and hopefully there will soon be a neighbourhood plan we can use to combat adverse planning conditions."

Mr Tonkin says a return to more local control will see councillors become more effective again for local people.

So it's a surprise someone who believes so evidently in service isn't going to stay around to see it happen.

He said: "You've got to know when your time is up. Some councillors stay too long. I know age is catching me up and it's time to step aside.

"We have some very good councillors who are beginning to get the devolution process started. They care deeply about St Ives.

"I will find plenty to do. There's already a list of things to do in the house and garden!"

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