From Cllr Marianne Overton MBE (Leader LGA Independent Group)
I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Councillor John Blackie’s family and friends from the Independent Group of Councillors at the Local Government Association.
John has been a huge inspiration for many locally, galvanising and encouraging action in support of the rural communities John worked so hard to support. John Blackie was one of the first Independent elected leaders I ever met. His ceaseless determination with strategic thought and planning always amazed me. His shepherding of so many brave and successful projects at the same time was very impressive.
Representing our whole group of councillors on the LGA committees, John took things up a notch with his modest accounts of what was not just possible, in fighting to keep rural services, but achieved, tried and tested: Taking over a library, little white bus and a garage among them. He is a great example of just how much a local councillor can do to change people’s lives for the better. He talked of his family and his community with great pride, and he will be much missed.
With sincere condolences,
From Cllr Paul Cullen (Ind, Richmondshire):
During his time as a councillor John demonstrated incredible hard work, initiative and dedication in representing his residents in the sparsely populated Upper Dales area of North Yorkshire.
What made him stand out from the average councillor was the number of initiatives he introduced and developed over those twenty five years including:
One of the first Rural Community Offices i.e a one stop shop now retaining its Post Office with banking facilities and recently an agreement to open a Newcastle Building Society Branch.
Starting a rural community bus service ‘The Little White Bus’ mainly run by volunteers1 when the local rural bus network began to disappear. The fleet now provides valuable services throughout the district linking many small rural communities.
Taking community ownership of the last remaining petrol station in Hawes for fear of it closing and now providing fuel for the fleet of little white buses and all the local residents twenty four hours a day.
Recently leading a plan to provide some local affordable housing that would have had a legally binding restriction on the right to buy and so allow the properties to remain for community use ‘in perpetuity’.
The above are just some examples of the numerous initiatives he began, most of which came under the umbrella of the ‘Upper Dales Community Partnership’ which he formed and was chairman till his death. This partnership without doubt helped the residents to withstand the serious impact of the reduction in vital rural services over many years.
During my long time as a district councillor I have met numerous councillors but I have yet to meet one that has had the same level of dedication and service - most of it voluntary - that John displayed. He was a true champion for his Upper Dales communities to which he dedicated his life.