Portsmouth City Council stalwart Jim Patey retires

Jim Patey from Paulsgrove who has retired from Portsmouth City Council after nearly four decades in local politics.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (141469-5)
Jim Patey from Paulsgrove who has retired from Portsmouth City Council after nearly four decades in local politics.'Picture: Ian Hargreaves (141469-5)
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Clockwise from top left, Hayley North, Helene Birt, Hilary Ward and James Cowlishaw outside court

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He has spent nearly four decades in politics, had a say on some of Portsmouth’s most important issues and even has a building named after him in honour of helping others.

And now at the age of 80, Jim Patey has called time on a long and satisfying career working with the city council and is looking forward to taking life much easier – and having a decent meal.

‘I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working in the city and I have met some amazing people,’ Jim says.

‘In some ways things are different now, because not as many emails are coming through and the phone doesn’t ring as much.

‘I can now have an evening meal and not get indigestion because I’ve had to take a call in the middle of eating!

‘I’ve always enjoyed talking to people though and I’ve never made a point of saying they have interrupted me.’

Jim brought the curtain down on his career after deciding not to re-stand as a Labour councillor for Paulsgrove in the local elections, a position he held for 27 years.

The party put up a new candidate, but the position was snapped up by Ukip’s Stuart Potter – making it only the fourth time in history Labour has ever lost a seat in the Paulsgrove ward.

And while Jim believes Ukip’s sudden rise has been an ‘earthquake’ in local politics, he says he can look back on his time knowing he’s done the best he can to help Labour and the people of Portsmouth.

And he says he will certainly miss what he calls the ‘rush and hustle’ lifestyle of politics in the city.

‘People seem to think being an elected member is a gifted situation, and that it’s just about going to a couple of meetings and things like that,’ Jim says.

‘But it’s not the case.

‘In a ward like Paulsgrove, you have got a lot of work to do.

‘It’s a ward that has suffered a lot of deprivation, and people particularly need a lot of support and help and you spend a lot of time going through what things you can do to help them.’

Jim said one of his proudest memories is when he helped raise £150,000 with his wife Joy towards the creation of the Patey Day Centre, in Cosham, during his stint as the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth between 1992 and 1993.

The building was named after the Pateys in homage to their selfless work – and Jim says it’s now sad to see that the dementia day care service will go once Edinburgh House, which it is part of, is demolished in order to fund a new residential care home in Farlington.

Jim says he was inspired to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s after being left ‘numb’ by a programme he heard on the radio about the conditions while driving to Bognor Regis in 1989.

‘It left me feeling very, very numb to think there were these terrible diseases that no-one really knew anything about,’ he explains.

‘And I thought maybe it would be good to do some fundraising and raise awareness of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

‘I feel quite numb and hurt about the centre’s closure.’

It was also in 1992 that Jim was involved in the presentation of the Freedom of Portsmouth award to Princess Diana.

He says: ‘That was something I was quite proud of, just like I was proud to be the lord mayor with my wife.

‘It gave me a huge insight into what makes a city tick.’

Jim, who grew up in Basingstoke, first got a taste of politics in his teens when he joined The League of Youth – the youth wing of the Labour Party – so he could be a goalkeeper for one of its football teams.

He explains: ‘They wanted someone to play in goal for them, and I said I was quite happy to do that.

‘But they said that in order to do that, I needed to join the Labour Party.’

His passion for the party grew from there, and during his time as a cook in the Royal Navy from 1951 to 1958 he was always eager to pick up a copy of left-wing newspaper The Daily Herald.

‘I’ve always been that way inclined in my thinking,’ he says.

‘I believe in the ideas of the Labour Party, and after I left the navy I rejoined the party and got involved in what it was doing.’

Jim won his first seat as a councillor in 1976 in Fratton ward, and held onto the post for 10 years.

He was then victorious in Paulsgrove in 1987, a position he retained all the way up until last month.

In 2007, he became leader of the Labour group and handed over the role to Cllr John Ferrett 18 months ago when he took the decision to start winding down.

Other things Jim has enjoyed is watching the rise of the University of Portsmouth and seeing Gunwharf Quays grow into a huge attraction.

And other key positions he has held includes being the chairman of traffic and transport for the council for 10 years, starting in 1991.

He introduced the first residents’ parking scheme to the city in 1999, when his group ran the council.

But Jim says that residents haven’t heard the last of him yet - he still intends to attend residents meetings, help Labour with promotional activities on the streets and provide support for community organisations should they need it.

Talking of Ukip and the party’s success in Paulsgrove and elsewhere in the city, Jim says: ‘I was extremely surprised.

‘I never expected Ukip to win in Paulsgrove. It can be best described as an earthquake.

‘Our core vote is normally in the region of 900 in Paulsgrove, and we didn’t even meet that target.’

Jim’s work has been praised by the many he has helped.

Angela Hayward, of Beviston Road, Paulsgrove, said: ‘He has helped me and my family numerous times over the years.

‘Whenever I’ve had problems he’s always taken on the case. If he says he’ll get back to you, he will – and quickly. He is totally non-judgemental.

‘Jim does everything to the best of his ability. He is such a nice guy. How he ever shops, I don’t know. Everyone stops to talk to him and he gives everyone his time.

‘He is old school. The new councillor has very big shoes to fill.’

Veteran Tory stands down

Mike Park is a former Conservative councillor Copnor for who also decided not to restand for the council after 27 years.

A new Tory candidate was put up in his place at the elections but Ukip won the seat.

Cllr Donna Jones, Conservative group leader, said: ‘Mike Park has been an outstanding councillor and was one of the most popular members of the council.

‘Across all political parties, Mike had respect and people enjoyed working alongside him.

‘It is a great loss to the council not have Mike serving along side us.’

Others who chose now to defend their seat after coming to the end of their elected term were Darron Phillips, who served in Baffins ward, April Windebank, Conservative member for Cosham and Lib Dem Caroline Scott, who represented Milton.

Ukip also seized a seat in Baffins but the Tories held onto their seat in Cosham after its new candidate Hannah Hockaday got the most votes.

The Lib Dems held on to Milton with new councillor Ben Dowling.