Haulier vows to drive out disrespect from Lancashire County Council debates and promote the place he loves as he takes on the role of chairman
and live on Freeview channel 276
The Conservative politician was the assumed front runner to take over from former County Hall leader Geoff Driver when the latter brought down the curtain on his political career at the last county council elections in 2021.
As deputy leader of the authority for the two years prior to that - and with one of the highest-profile portfolios in cabinet as the member for highways and transport from 2017 - County Cllr Iddon appeared a shoo-in. But the top job ultimately went to fellow cabinet member Phillippa Williamson, following a vote of the Tory group.
However, after a brief stint on the backbenches following his depature from cabinet, County Cllr Iddon is back at the top table - but now in the role of chairman of the authority for the next year.
The largely ceremonial post will see the 71-year-old - who has been deputy chairman for the last 12 months - represent the county council at events and also, as the name suggests, chair meetings of the full council.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service about his ascent to the prestigious position, he said that while the path his political career has taken was not necessarily the one he had planned, it is probably the one that best suits his temperament.
“I’d upped my game to become leader and I’d worked hard on [achieving] that. I certainly would have enjoyed the challenge.
“But from the kind things that people said in the meeting where I was installed [as chairman], I feel I’m more fitted to this role. My personality certainly lends itself better to this,” said County Cllr Iddon, whose avuncular demeanour even enabled him largely to avoid the political opprobrium so often directed at the person ultimately in charge of fixing Lancashire’s potholes.
In a council chamber where the political divides are as plain as a pikestaff and the tone of the debate has been known to flirt with the fringes of civility, his famously collegiate style - which has made him a popular figure on all sides - affords him some significant influence. And the one thing the lifelong haulier will hold no truck with is unpleasantness between councillors - whatever their political persuasion.
“We have that kind of thing in Parliament and other places - and I just won’t stand for people being disrespectful or unkind to each other,” he warned.
“I had to pull a few people up in my first meeting and, to be fair, they did respect me for doing it.”
The Chorley Rural West representative said he was touched by plaudit-laden nomination speeches from his own Tory benches - “I never knew people thought of me in that way” - as well as the fact that the Labour opposition group also supported his candidacy.
County Cllr Iddon was first elected to County Hall in 2009 and has also sat on Chorley Council for 17 years. He moved into politics just as he was starting to slow down in his career at the top of successful local haulage firm K&P Transport, which he had run with his brother Phillip since the early 1970s.
The company started out with a used lorry bought for just £50, with the £12.50 road tax borrowed from their mum, Win.
It enabled the then 21-year-old Keith - born and raised in Croston and now living in Mawdesley - to indulge a love of HGVs, which he had developed from an early age. From humble roots, the business eventually became a huge concern, boasting depots in Leyland, Kent and Dundee.
County Cllr Iddon still holds an HGV licence and is not averse to helping out his twin sons, John and William, by doing “short runs” for their own haulage operation when they could use a hand.
“Driving today is certainly different than it was when I set off,” he laughs, with a nod to the in-vehicle technology that now exists half a century later.
He often put his haulage background to good use in his cabinet post in charge of the roads, when - always with an eye to generating a quirky headline - he drove a snow plough through the streets in the height of summer and regularly accompanied highways staff on site visits and jobs.
With a more serious purpose, he also famously donned a blindfold and walked through Preston city centre in an attempt to better understand how blind or partially-sighted people may cope with the “shared space” layout which had not long been introduced on Fishergate.
As well as spending time with his three grandchildren, one of County Cllr Iddon’s main passions is pigeon racing. In 2019, he called on schools to do more to foster the next generation of pigeon fanciers in order to prevent the sport from ultimately dying out.
The pastime was one of the reasons he had for getting out and about again after the depths of the pandemic, during which he admits that he got a little too used to being within his own four walls.
“It has been a difficult few years for people and it did affect everybody in lots of different ways.
“For instance, It took me quite a while to get back to going out, even just to meetings. I didn't like having meetings [online], but you just get used to being at home.
“I'm a lot older, of course, and it's nice to be at home. But I got to the stage where I really wasn't bothered about [leaving the house] - and that's not like me.”
However, he is now raring to go in the role of chairman, which he sees as one in which his main job is to bang the drum for Lancashire and its businesses.
“I do take the role very seriously - it's not about sitting on a throne in County Hall. Part of this job, for me, is to do anything I can to bring investment to Lancashire. I want to help to make it a place where it's great to live, work and grow up.
“If I can help any business or organisation - if they feel it would be nice for the chairman of Lancashire County Council to be there to meet their customers from anywhere in the world - I'm quite happy to do that. All you have to do is just call me.
“If anybody wants me to speak at any event or do anything [to promote Lancashire], I will talk to anybody.
“I love Lancashire - it's done a lot for me and I want to put something back.”
His long distance trucking days may be behind him, but it seems the new county council chairman is still prepared to go the extra mile to fuel Lancashire's success.