I’m Preston’s new mayor and am looking forward to it - but at first I turned it down

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It took a little bit of persuading before Preston’s new mayor agreed to don the ceremonial chains of office.

In fact, Phil Crowe turned down the offer twice - not because he was dismissive of the honour, but rather he feared he did not have the time to dedicate the diary-packed civic role.

Although it is more than decade since he took early retirement after a career at BAE Systems, the Lea and Larches ward councillor is not one for putting his feet up.

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As well as his council duties, he is actively involved in a charity that upgrades schools in some of the poorest parts of the world and is also a governor of the Ashton-on-Ribble-based Royal Cross School for Deaf Children. He has to fit all that in around a part-time job as a caretaker.

Cllr Phil Crowe has been sworn in as mayor of Preston for 2024/25 (image: Michael Porter Photography)Cllr Phil Crowe has been sworn in as mayor of Preston for 2024/25 (image: Michael Porter Photography)
Cllr Phil Crowe has been sworn in as mayor of Preston for 2024/25 (image: Michael Porter Photography)

While he had already been a councillor for a couple of years before finishing his BAE job in 2012, the now 67-year-old Phil confesses to having been “bored” when he first retired.

“I’d see these blokes, who I assume were older than me, and they’d be walking along with their shopping bags and with their heads down. I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God, is this what retirement is?’” Phil told the Lancashire Post

It was then that he started scanning the horizon for volunteering opportunities - and soon found that there was no shortage of groups doing great work across Preston and far beyond.

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A desire to help shine a spotlight on those “unseen” efforts is one of the reasons Phil finally decided to take up the Preston mayoralty for the next year.

When asked what he was looking forward to most about his time in office, he said simply: “The next event.”

“I just want to go to every community event, in particular, that I can do. There are some great people in Preston and all sorts of organisations. No matter where you turn or where you go, there’s somebody doing something.

“Just in my ward, they’ve got a food and clothes hub, there’s a youth club and a few ladies run an over- 55s club. Recently [as deputy mayor], I went to the Sikh temple on Bow Lane and they are distributing food around Preston.

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“And everyone is so grateful when [the mayor or deputy] turns up somewhere,” Phil said.

The lesson he has learned from his own experience and the work he has witnessed others doing is that “you don’t need to be bored in Preston”.

He has selected three charities to support during his term - community environmental group Let’s Grow Preston, support provider Disability Equality North West and Furniture for Education Worldwide (FEW), the school upgrade organisation with which he volunteers himself.

That role has seen him regularly travel around the world to deliver vital supplies and take part in projects such as installing playgrounds.

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“I went over to Burnley one day [to help fill a container of donations] and they said, 'We're going out to Africa if you want to come' - and I thought, ‘Why not?’ So I went for a week and have been involved ever since.

“We've been to places like Tanzania, Cambodia [and] Uganda - I went out four times in one year once, but usually twice.

“But we've lost our warehouse, so we have nowhere to store stuff now. So if we get any money at the moment, we're just sending it over to get boreholes put in in villages where they have no water,” Phil explained, adding that the current absence of trips with FEW helped persuade him that now might be the right time to become mayor.

In that role, he will have the support of not just one, but two mayoresses over the next 12 months - his wife Maggie and 37-year-old daughter Natalie.

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Although far from him being able to select a mayoress for the occasion, Phil fully expects to be told which of the women in his life is accompanying him to what event.

“My daughter has gone onto another planet - she has been saying, ‘If you’re going to this 'do', then I’ll come [with you] to that,’” he laughed.

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