Leader of the pack

PUBLISHED: 09:32 08 February 2008 | UPDATED: 15:01 20 February 2013

Lord Hanningfield

Lord Hanningfield

Lord Hanningfield, Leader of the Essex County Council, speaks to Essex Life about his family history, housing, the impact of the Olympics and being imprisoned in Iran

BORN Paul Edward Winston White on September 16, 1940, Lord Hanningfield can trace his ancestors in the West Hanningfield area back more than 500 years.
Currently living in Stock, Lord Hanningfield has lived in Essex his entire life and was educated at King Edward VI's Grammar School in Chelmsford.
After winning a scholarship under the Nuffield Fellowship to study agriculture and marketing in the United States, he became an active member of the National Farmers' Union, serving on the national executive.
'I have been involved in local government for most of my life and continued farming until fairly recently, rearing livestock, and I still maintain strong links with the farming community,' says Lord Hanningfield.
'There is not much time for hobbies, but away from the office I am a keen gardener and I have a particular interest in English mediaeval history. To relax I take a long walk with my Bernese mountain dog, Jefferson.
'I also love to travel, whether just around our beautiful county or abroad. My interest in travel began early in life and when I was younger I drove to India with my best friend in an ex-British Army Humber truck which also doubled as sleeping accomodation. We drove through Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan but were imprisoned for
a short time in Iran.
'We camped one night on what later turned out to be military land. Obviously being in an ex-military vehichle it caused some excitement with the local security forces and we were held overnight until assurances could be provided.
'With so many wonderful places in the county, it is difficult to pick a favourite, but it is hard to beat eating seafood on Mersea Island.'
Lord Hanningfield has been an Essex County Councillor for nearly 40 years and has led Essex County Council for most of the last ten. He was also chairman of the council from 1989 to 1992. Essex Life asked Lord Hanningfield to give us an insight into his thoughts on how the county will change over the coming years.

Lord Hanningfield on...
Transport
As the current Shadow Minister for Transport, this is a subject close to my heart. The people of Essex are faced daily with congested roads and over-crowded rail links. This cannot continue and is why I will be taking action this year to again ensure that the necessary resources are provided by the government and train operators to allow Essex people to travel around their county without excessive delay and congestion.
As Essex commuters know, and a recent report has confirmed, the A12 is the UK's worst road for congestion. Nearly every week we are seeing major disruption on this government-operated road which is losing thousands, even millions of pounds for our businesses and delaying people on a regular basis. The A12 is not run by Essex County Council but by the Highways Agency. I am lobbying hard to increase capacity in order to tackle congestion issues. We also need to get better at reopening such roads quickly after incidents. It is simply unacceptable there are still no concrete plans from government to improve the A12 to the level required. We need some action this time.
Of course, Stansted Airport is an important part of the county's plans for transport. I am bitterly opposed to a second runway at Stansted. It is not just about the unwanted and unnecessary runway that I am particularly concerned with: it's about the government's entire strategy for aviation in the south of England including the future of Heathrow, Gatwick and the smaller regional airports. The 'predict and provide' approach to new airport capacity is now simply unacceptable to the vast majority of people, especially when we are all conscious of our responsibilities to the environment. Indeed the government's existing aviation strategy stands in total contradiction to its pledges to protect the environment and reduce green house gasses.

Lord Hanningfield on...
Education
Much of my early political career was spent in the education field and it is something that I am still passionately interested in. We are fortunate to have some of the best schools in the country in Essex and also have two excellent universities. Education is key to improving life chances and in unlocking raw talent in our young people.
Levels of educational attainment and skills are below the national average in the south of the county and this is something I have been consistently trying to address in recent years and will continue to do so. We also must not get complacent in the rest of the county, but remember that we must do everything possibly to improve education for our young people. This is why the county council will continue with its ambitious plans to improve education right across the county.

Lord Hanningfield on...
Housing and development
No one opposes the ambition of building more affordable homes for those who have been unable to get a foot on the housing ladder. However, what is of serious concern are the plans that the government has for the creation of large-scale housing developments not only going against the wishes of local people but, crucially, being built without the necessary infrastructure to support them. Many of these developments also lack the ability to thrive economically as communities in their own right.
Without such infrastructure, the pressures that local government is currently facing - in particular, in dealing with inward migration and care for the elderly - will be exacerbated.
Legitimate concerns must also be raised over the role of the proposed Home and Communities Agency if local government is not to be bypassed altogether. Combined with the creation of another national quango to decide the future of large-scale infrastructure projects, we now run the risk of moving towards the effective centralisation of all major planning decisions akin to a command economy. Local communities are in danger of being removed altogether from having a say over their own future shape and size.

Lord Hanningfield on...
Olympics and investment
The 2012 Olympics give us a great opportunity to showcase our wonderful county both nationally and internationally. Essex is, of course, holding the mountain biking events at Weald Country Park in Brentwood.
Creation of an estimated 9,000 jobs, and investment in infrastructure and technology would contribute to significant gains for our county. Sporting legacy, regional pride and identity and the cultural impact of volunteerism and social inclusion that the Olympics engender, would spread wider still.
Such an event would bring numerous direct benefits to an area (the Thames Gateway) that is a national priority for regeneration and that is the largest regeneration project currently being targeted within Europe.
I strongly believe that the 2012 Olympics is an unparalleled opportunity, and one that must be seized by our county.

Lord Hanningfield on...
Health
I believe that every service delivered to people in their local area should be directly answerable to local people through their locally elected council. Council leaders are elected to put people first, and regardless of which service they are using, if they are seeking help or redress, their first point of contact must be their council.
When people in my area are demanding a change in the way their area is policed, or are asking why hospital infections are going up, then I want the ability to put the concerns of people first.
Some powers are properly held at the national level. Tackling and combating organised crime and protecting national security should be done at the national level, but the provision of local healthcare should be answerable first to local people through their council.

Lord Hanningfield on...
Essex as a whole
Essex is a truly great place that I am passionate about. The people, places and natural beauty of the environment make it one of England's hidden secrets. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
Essex County Council is also determined to play its part in improving the quality of life in our county. Starting from this year we will therefore set out a series of clear initiatives reflecting what people have told us is important to improving their lives and those of their families. These priorities become our priorities.
From tackling congestion and cracking down on yob behaviour to protecting our environment and increasing choice and independence for our elderly; they will be designed to improve lives right across the county. Each priority will be tangible, identifiable with a set deadline for completion, allowing people to therefore see how effective we have been and to judge us accordingly.
This will be a new way of thinking and one that I believe will make a difference. There is a lot to do, but I am determined that working in this new way we will be able to overcome challenges and harness those opportunities for our great county.

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