It was with great sadness that we heard of the sudden loss of John Newton, UKIP Councillor, on January 11th at the age of 68.
John was one of UKIP's four Thetford Town and Breckland District Councillors elected in 2015. I personally first met John when we both regularly walked our dogs on Thetford's Castle Park. Originally from London he had moved with his wife Linda to Thetford in the 70s to start a business in the town. Now retired he mentioned to me on one of our dog walking mornings that he was kicking his heels and was looking for something to occupy his time - something "he could get his teeth into".
This was 2015 and the UKIP SW Norfolk Branch was looking for candidates to stand in the forthcoming Local Town and District elections. I suggested lightheartedly that he might like to stand as a candidate for UKIP. Some days later, after giving it some thought and no doubt some family discussion, he told me he would very much like to represent UKIP as a candidate and would go for it.
John was already quite well known in Thetford and after running a particularly strong campaign with our three other UKIP candidates all were elected onto both Thetford Town Council and Breckland District Council, with John representing Castle Ward.
A naturally community minded and family loving man, John took on this new role in local politics with his characteristic zest and enthusiasm. Quickly learning the ropes and getting down to work he soon began to show his effectiveness as a Councillor. His disarming smile coupled with a sense of humour so often expressed with innocuous jokes made him a hugely likeable individual. Add to that combination an insightful and inquiring mind and you have a political opponent to be reckoned with.
John proved to be a marvelous Councillor, instigating and then pursuing with a terrier-like determination community projects to improve the environment for local inhabitants. His dedicated hands-on approach led him among other things to personally pick up bags of rubbish each morning while dog walking, using a boat to clear the river banks of rubbish in the town centre and pushing for more stringent rules to tackle street drinking.
John would not be slow in speaking out and challenging those bureaucrats and agencies who he felt were not on the side of the people or who he felt were following their own agenda for various reasons.
Over the following years we became good friends. As a branch committee member he was hugely supportive in branch activities, assisting in many of the various election campaigns the branch was involved in. John was also very supportive of myself as Chairman and of our Secretary Karen Head. His support was much appreciated in what was a very active and sometimes stressful period over those years.
In his comparatively short period as a Councillor John achieved much and was highly thought of not only by those in his own ward but throughout the town. He was held in respect by Councillors from other parties, even those that did not agree with him politically. His popularity was reflected in the packed chapel at Bury St Edmunds at his funeral on the 24th January.
John's passing is no doubt a terrible and sad loss to his family but also to the town and the many who knew him and who were touched by the light and warmth of a particularly fine person.
UKIP SW Norfolk Association Chairman 2012-2018
In a statement from his family:
Aged 68 years of Thetford. Dearly loved husband, dad, grandad, brother and friend to many. "You will be missed so deeply, love you always".
From Thetford Town Council:
"The thoughts of everyone at Thetford Town Council are with John's family and friends at this sad time"
A show of respect at the next Town Council Meeting will be held in memory of Mr. Newton. A spokesman for the Town Council said. " It is with deep sadness that the Town Council informs the public of the passing of Councillor John Newton