Jon leaves council for new career after cancer fight
DOWNEND councillor and South Gloucestershire Council deputy leader Jon Hunt is leaving politics, shortly after completing successful treatment for cancer.
He has stepped down after nine years representing the area, having recently been involved in the council's responses to both the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.
Jon, who is married with a young daughter, announced that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 bowel and liver cancer last summer.
The Frenchay and Downend ward councillor underwent chemotherapy and two operations while continuing to carry out his role as cabinet member for children and young people, where he helped bring the department out of special measures and oversaw an expansion of youth services, including the creation of a supported living project in Yate.
Jon oversaw work on the local impact of leaving the EU and, following the COVID-19 outbreak, the authority's links with community and volunteer groups to help people who were shielding – while at the same time shielding himself.
He said: "I had a strong will that I would continue working as much as possible throughout my treatment. I felt that by keeping myself active and busy it distracted me from thinking about the treatment. This meant that there was a minimal impact on my portfolio, and I was able to focus on the things that I could control."
Jon said he was "very fortunate" that council leader Toby Savage was "willing to be as flexible as I needed" during treatment, allowing him to link with meetings in different ways, including recording a video message for a cabinet meeting held on a day he was due to have an operation.
He said: "Strangely the pandemic, and meetings all moving remotely, allowed me to be even more involved, as when recovering from surgery I was still able to access meetings that I may not have been able to attend in person otherwise.
"My wife has been amazing throughout my journey and has been there to support me the entire time (although I'm sure she would have preferred me to take a bit more time off from my council duties).
"We also had great support from friends who have helped with childcare and my daughter's school, Christ Church Infants School, and Buckingham Gardens Nursery, who went over and above to help out with our daughter to allow my wife to visit me in hospital and support us whenever they could."
Jon underwent the second of two operations to remove tumours from his liver on March 2, three weeks before lockdown.
He said: "If this had been scheduled for later then there would have been significant delays. It did mean that post-op care was done through phone calls, rather than in person and scans to check on the success of the surgery are still not back up and running, so there is also a worry of whether everything has been removed.
"Due to my condition I was added to the clinically extremely vulnerable list and was required to shield. In my role as deputy leader I took on the portfolio of Community Support, which included shielding, so it was very useful to have the insight of what it was like as someone on that list."
Jon, who ran an IT business alongside his council role, will now become a civil servant, working in the Government Digital Service.
He said: “Having recently come to the end of my treatment, now feels the right time to move onto a new chapter of my life.
"I am excited by a move to the public sector, even though it sadly means I have to withdraw from local politics, but my priority has to be to provide for my family.
"This is a now a new challenge for me and one that I am really looking forward to tackling.
“South Gloucestershire remains a great place to live and work and I want to recognise everyone at the council; the officers, my fellow councillors and the cabinet, for the important role they play.
"Being a local councillor is a big responsibility but also a great honour and I hope the council continues to adapt to make that opportunity more accessible to local people wanting to make a difference.”
Paying tribute to Jon's work, Councillor Savage said he had "served the council with distinction," adding: “Despite his battle with cancer over the past year, he was never distracted from his responsibilities, even when he was being advised to.
"His tireless efforts to deliver for his local residents, for the children and young people entering and leaving the care system, and South Gloucestershire as a whole has been nothing short of outstanding."
Boyd Valley councillor Ben Stokes is taking over as deputy leader, while Parkwall and Warmley councillor Sam Bromiley will take over as cabinet member for children and young people.