Long-serving Chorley councillor to depart as election run-up clashes with Covid shielding advice

A veteran Chorley county councillor will not be contesting his seat at the forthcoming local elections – because he has been told to shield at a time when he would otherwise be campaigning.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 8:54 pm

Mark Perks – who has represented the division currently known as Clayton with Whittle for the past 16 years – says the practicalities of fighting an election during the pandemic have forced his hand.

He had intended to seek a fifth term on Lancashire County Council in May, but changed his mind when he became one of the 1.7 million people added to the shielding list last month until the end of March.

“It would be just too risky for me to be canvassing and leafleting, even though candidates are now allowed to do that.

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Clayton with Whittle county councillor Mark Perks, pictured during his time as mayors on Chorley Borough Council

“You’ve also got to get your nomination papers signed by a couple of people and that would mean going to see them – and I’m not prepared to put myself or others at risk.

“And we don’t know what the situation is going to be like by the end of the month anyway – I fear cases could rise again, just when we have done all the hard work and the vaccine rollout is going so well.

“A lot of people seem to be acting as if the rules have already been relaxed – I have seen them gathering in groups when I have taken my dog for a walk,” said Mark, who was a member of the Conservative group at County Hall until becoming an independent in 2019.

He also served 17 years on Chorley Council before stepping down two years ago to look after his elderly mother, Elsie, who was suffering from dementia. She sadly passed away last autumn and his experience in caring for her had given Mark a platform on which to campaign had he been able to stand for re-election.

“After some of the difficulties I had looking after someone with dementia, I wanted to push for better health services in this part of Chorley, because there must be loads of people on their own who are struggling.”

It is the satisfaction derived from supporting residents that Mark says he will miss most about no longer being a councillor.

“I enjoyed helping people who might have really tried themselves [to resolve an issue], but just couldn’t get anywhere.

“A lot of it is about battling bureaucracy and many people just don’t know where to turn – I just like championing them and, if you do have success, that’s better than any thanks.”

While the rambunctiousness of political debate in the council chamber is something Mark will be glad to see the back of, he says he may yet stand again for the borough elections in 2022.

“Once you’ve been involved, it’s difficult to walk away and not be concerned about what’s going on – especially if it’s something like a controversial planning application.

“But it might do me good to have a year off and start doing things for myself – and who knows, in 12 months’ time, I might decide that politics is in the past.”