It’s fair to say the new chairman of Lancashire County Council has many strings to his bow.
For a start, he’s the holder of a current HGV licence, he’s spent a lifetime working in the haulage industry and he has an interest in farming and pigeon fancying, to name but a few.
County Councillor Keith Iddon, 71, lives in Mawdesley and hails from Croston, where he grew up with ‘not a car or a telephone in sight,’ but ‘plenty of horses in the fields,’ he says. Transfixed by watching the first vehicles arriving in the rural village as a teen, he developed a total fascination with them.
“I was much more interested in trucks and tractors and motorcycles than school – that’s where my passion was.”
He was, by his own admission, well on the way to becoming something of a ‘wayward teen’ – but got back on track thanks to a teacher called Miss Elizabeth Beatty at Bishop Rawstorne School.
“She said she would give me a part in the production of Dick Whittington, on the proviso that I behaved better,” he recalls, adding: “That was probably the biggest change in my life – I would not be sitting here if that had not happened.”
He bagged an apprenticeship at a timber importers called PH Haydock & Co Ltd aged 17 – but got sent to college in Leamington Spa for a four year stint studying timber technology, wood science, commercial law, accountancy and economics.
At the end of it, aged 21, he promptly bought an ‘old truck for 50 quid,’ borrowed the £12.50 money for road tax from his mum, Win, and set up his own haulage company with his brother, Phillip.
“Well – off we went,” he says.
With his dad, John, already working in haulage, a long career in the industry followed and he set up the family business, formerly K&P Transport Limited. The proud possessor of a current HGV licence, Cllr Iddon still ‘loves being a truck driver’ by doing short stints at weekends – a feat no doubt appreciated by his sons, twins William and John Iddon, both 39, who are now at the helm.
Currently County Councillor for Chorley Rural West (including Charnock Richard and Heskin) and Chorley Borough Councillor for Croston, Mawdesley and Euxton South, Cllr Iddon stepped into the role of vice chairman at the county council a year ago, and is looking forward to taking over the reins from outgoing chairman Cllr Peter Britcliffe.
“It’s been a very positive experience, working with Peter as he has included me in everything and involved me. It’s been a very momentous time as he’s presided over the period of the sad passing of the Queen and of course, the coronation of King Charles III.”
Voted in as a Lancashire County Councillor in 2009 and to Chorley Borough Council in 2006, Cllr Iddon was the county council’s lead member for children, young people and schools and cabinet member for highways and transport, becoming deputy leader of the county council in 2019 until 2021 and its vice chairman last year. With major schemes like the Penwortham bypass and the Broughton bypass coming to fruition during his four year tenure in highways, he says he ‘enjoyed’ taking a hands on approach there.
“I enjoyed that,” he says. “I really got on with the highways team – I used to go out with them. I remember when we did Broughton, it was very bad weather – it never stopped raining and the whole thing was awash with mud. I’m standing there with this helmet, these wellies and the rain pouring down, hoping that we would find firm ground, which we did after three days!
“We had the worst winter in ten years and all the roads froze – someone said I had a baptism of fire with that year!”
But undeterred, Cllr Iddon was very much hands on, even going so far as to practise with highways teams in a snow plough at the height of summer, prompting a ripple of amusement and raised eyebrows in Horton in the Ribble Valley at one point.
A granddad of three, Cllr Iddon also enjoys pigeon fancying, a pastime that grew from his childhood in Croston and saw him transporting the birds the length and breadth of the country in his trucks. A slightly more glamorous accolade is having learned to fly light aircraft at RAF Woodvale in his 20s, although this led to him empathising more with his pigeons than he would have liked on occasion.
“My claim to fame was getting lost on many occasions,” he admits, adding, “I got lost in fog many years ago, even though it was a beautiful day when I set out, and managed to get Manchester airport closed down for an hour.
“I just trusted my instinct that I would find my way back. I can relate to the pigeons!”
He hopes that his year in office will bring investment, growth and business to Lancashire.
“My main job is promoting Lancashire wherever I can, and trying to bring in as much investment as I can. I’m willing to work and go anywhere to do that and I would like to visit the business sectors in Lancashire and bring the skills that I have had from working in business and in manufacturing.
“I’m from a farming background – I would like to support farmers as much as I can, as our farming industry is vital for Lancashire, as for the country.”
Also top of the list is respect and politeness, he underlines, adding: “I would like everyone to respect each other – we all do this on a voluntary basis.”
The weight of the responsibility of becoming chairman during the 50th anniversary of Lancashire County Council this coming year is not lost on him either.
“It’s the 50th anniversary of Lancashire County Council this year, which is another reason why I am very proud and honoured to become its chairman.”
Not bad for the man whose deputy head teacher said he would be ‘of no use to anyone’ at school. He added: “I would not have thought when I was 14 and obsessed with motorcycles that I would be sitting here today, wearing a suit, and that they would be making me chairman of Lancashire County Council.”