Thursday, 12 February 2015

A Farewell to Paul Breeze

I am very sorry to hear that Paul Breeze, a City Independent councillor for Northwood and Central Forest Park ward in Stoke-on-Trent, passed away suddenly yesterday. What can you say about Paul? He wasn't a labour movement man as such, despite a past affiliation with the Socialist Party of Great Britain, but he did care deeply about the community in which he lived and always did his best by them.

I didn't know Paul particularly well. A couple of conversations here and there, a hearty hello whenever we bumped into each other down the local Tesco. But I certainly knew of him - he was something of a fixture on the local political landscape. Elected twice to the local authority as a non-aligned representative, he did a stint as the deputy mayor during the time Stoke experimented with having a directly elected figurehead. In 2011 he was returned as one of two members of his ward alongside Labour's Mark Meredith who, funnily enough, was the mayor to his deputyship. Paul later joined the City Independent group in 2013. He was a regular in the local press, having both the knack of regularly getting Northwood-related stories into its pages and having letters printed about the local issues he cared about. He was also one of the few Stoke councillors whose face didn't break the photographer's camera.

Paul was also known in the chamber for his indefatigability. If the bit was between his teeth he never let go. He served as chair of Hanley One residents' association and was a leading light in the Friends of Central Forest Park. He never bowed to the prevailing winds either and would come out for whatever he felt was right. In the referendum to abolish the elected mayoralty, Paul was one of the few non-Labour independent voices active in the efforts to save it. Similarly, while most councillors fell over themselves to rule out a raise in the basic allowance from £11k to £12k Paul was virtually alone in saying our local elected representatives were worth it. He was also a leading voice in the campaign against the building of new council-owned offices in the city centre, was very vocal about the viability (and illiteracy) of the 'City Sentral' shopping centre project, and banged the drum for the extension of the existing Intu Potteries complex. He also, to be honest, had some daft ideas. I have a sneaking suspicion the Stoke-on-Trent package tour and Council-designed Staffordshire Hoard tea set that have appeared in the City Independents' election manifesto were his.

As well as being a tireless advocate for his ward and the city, Paul had previously penned two novels and was something of a musician. Many a time would I clamber into cars of his political opponents and find a Paul Breeze CD mixed in among the collection.

It is an awful shame that Paul has been taken away prematurely. Knowing the local Labour Party, I'm sure all members' thoughts will be with his family and friends. Paul's warmth and decency will be missed by everyone who came into contact with him.

2 comments:

Gary Elsby said...

It's certainly a sad loss to the City and the political community in general.
Labour won all elected Mayor contests but the rules allowed for second preferences and so the Independent Wolfe got it with Paul becoming Deputy.
He was a fervent champion of doing away with the idea of councillors choosing their own leader.
Paul was an Independent as I was an Independent socialist.
This put me at odds with Paul on many occasions because I couldn't get where he was coming from or why?
In the 2010 General election, Paul stood as the Independent candidate along with a few other independents, including me.
Most were 'closet Tories'(and still are) but I could call Paul that.
On radio Stoke he lambasted everyone for what they were(!) and left me in no uncertain terms what I was (!!).
I took to the keyboard and answered him back in the press and web. I informed him that he was 100% correct on everyone bar me (!!!).
A few days later I was at the checkout in Morrison's and he came running down the aisles and bear hugged me apologising for playing the game. I told him I enjoyed the game also and that's why I pasted him back and we both laughed.
I didn't know Paul too well and I thought his decision to join the City Independents was ill conceived and based on wrong thoughts. He now found himself defending what I believed to be in defensible, but he had a good go.
Like all people I've ever met in local politics, he seemed to me to be quite a god fellow all round and the world is made up of differing opinions anyway.
Very sad news.

Gary Elsby said...

Oops.
That should read 'I couldn't call Paul that'.