Retiring chief executive set to receive Borough’s top civic honour

Philip Simpkins
Philip Simpkins will retire in 2021

The retiring chief executive of Bedford Council will receive the highest honour the borough can bestow.

Bedfordshire born and bred Philip Simpkins received high praise from councillors who yesterday (Thursday) formally agreed to grant him the honorary title of Freeman of the Borough.

Mr Simpkins, who has been the council’s chief executive for the last 12 years, joins two generals, three Olympic athletes and various local bigwigs in becoming the 18th person since 1900 to receive the title.

Mr Simpkins becomes the first Freeman of the borough since Herr Herbert Lauer, the Lord Mayor of twin town Bamberg, received the honour in 2016.

Marathon super-athlete Paula Radcliffe was given the title in 2001.

The council held an extraordinary meeting yesterday to unanimously vote to confirm their acclaim for Mr Simpkins who has worked in local government in Bedfordshire for 43 years.

Recollections of a lifetime of memories were kept short at yesterday’s meeting as councillors deferred their speech making to date when they can meet in person. They are hoping to meet up and swap stories on Sunday, September 19.

Yesterday’s meeting was an encore of a surprise motion at a council meeting on March 17 when all three party group leaders, plus the independents and the Greens, combined to praise and virtually applaud Mr Simpkins.

At that meeting, Mr Simpkins spoke of his “absolute honour and privilege” to hold the top job at the council.

“To be the chief executive of the county town has been an honour and a privilege,” he said.

Mr Simpkins has handed his legal responsibilities for elections, a budget of £370 million and the work of about 2,600 employees, to new chief executive Terry Collins.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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