ian boulton

Ian raring to go in chairman's role

IT may not carry as grand a title as Lord Mayor, but the chairman of South Gloucestershire Council is no less an illustrious role.

And while Bristol’s Lord Mayor may wear red robes and a feathered hat, the politicians calling the shots in this area are perhaps a more modest bunch.

But armed with a simple chain of office, this year’s chairman, councillor Ian Boulton, promises his year will be anything but ordinary.

Ian, who has spent the last year thrashing out his apprenticeship as vice chairman of the council, is raring to go, eager to thrust South Gloucestershire into the spotlight.

The 45-year-old Labour councillor, who represents the ward of Staple Hill, was elected on May 22, taking over from Conservative Janet Biggin.

It’s really a case of local boy done good – Ian is Gloucestershire born and bred. In fact, when tracing his family tree, he discovered he lives just around the corner from where his great, great grandparents set up home.

As the son of a police officer, Ian moved from place to place including Winterbourne, Patchway, Weston Super Mare and Warmley but is now firmly settled in Staple Hill with his partner Kenny Gale.

Ian said: “It’s lovely going around South Glos because I have so many links across the whole area. 

“Even though my great, great grandparents on my paternal grandmother’s side were just around the corner, we’ve traced my paternal grandfather’s side to Hawkesbury Upton in the 1700s. It’s all South Glos - we didn’t go very far at all!”

After leaving education with a clutch of O-levels and a BTEC in business, Ian went to work for a bank, eventually setting up his own training company in 1997 – Flexible Training Partners - which he still runs today.

Life was good but it wasn’t enough and the draw of politics became irresistible.

“I had the time and the energy to be able to make a difference to my environment. I did think about campaigning for a single issue cause or charity like Save the Children but I thought ‘who is it that all these causes are trying to persuade and influence?’ It was the councillors and the politicians and I decided I that would be more interesting and have more effect. So rather than taking the easy option of just doing one thing, I took something a little more complicated – politics.”

Since choosing his path, his political career is certainly impressive.

He was a councillor for Cadbury Heath and Oldland Parish Council for 12 years and stood as the Labour Parliamentary Candidate in Filton and Bradley Stoke in the 2010 General Election where he came second to Conservative Jack Lopresti.

He was elected onto South Gloucestershire Council in 2011 to represent the ward of Staple Hill alongside fellow Labour councillor Shirley Potts.

“Staple Hill is a good community,” Ian says.

“To be able to represent the people here and to be able to get things done is really rewarding.”

And does the political world live up to Ian’s expectations?

“It has its challenges,” he admits. “But it also has its rewards and it’s nice to be able to make a difference.”

Ironically, his new role as chairman of the council is non-political. Instead Ian will become an ambassador for the whole council and the people of South Gloucestershire.

“It’s a bit like our equivalent to Bristol’s Lord Mayor,” he explains.

“You are seen as first citizen of the district of South Glos. You’re responsible for meeting and greeting VIPs and acting as an ambassador in other regions.

“One of the things I’m really interested in is supporting our area’s hi-tech manufacturing businesses and organisations like the Science Park and the aerospace companies. 

“When Airbus recently had a groundbreaking ceremony in Alabama for a new factory they were building there, they had the local mayor come out and give them a big civic welcome. That’s the sort of thing I should be doing here for potential investors or new customers in South Glos. We can sometimes be a bit cynical about these sorts of things but a lot of people, particularly foreign visitors, really value that sort of support.”

The issue of education will also be high on Ian’s list of priorities.

“If we are to attract hi-tech manufacturers we have to ensure we have the workforce to fill these well-paid and highly skilled jobs so for us, as a council, the focus should be on ensuring that our population has those skills.”

So is Ian ready for his year in office?

“It’s a huge honour to have the role and represent the authority and the people of South Gloucestershire. I’ve been planning since Christmas because I really want to hit the ground running. I’ve put a lot of preparation into it and I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be an exciting ride.”

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