New Lancashire County Council chairman is 'a people person who crosses the political divide'

The new chairman of Lancashire County Council has pledged to follow in the footsteps of his late predecessor by promoting Lancashire and making it “the place it should be”.
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Alan Cullens has been elected to the largely ceremonial role after the sudden death of Keith Iddon, who passed away in June, barely a month after taking up what should have been a year-long post.

County Cllr Cullens, who represents the Hoghton with Wheelton division, will now occupy the position for the remainder of the municipal year until next May.

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He told the specially-convened meeting at which he was installed - following a vote by fellow members of the authority - that the circumstances of his election made it a “bittersweet” moment for him.

County Cllr Alan Cullens, just after receiving his chain of officeCounty Cllr Alan Cullens, just after receiving his chain of office
County Cllr Alan Cullens, just after receiving his chain of office

The Tory politician said that, like Keith Iddon - who was himself a Chorley Conservative - he would not let politics get in the way of a job which involves being Lancashire's most senior representative and also chairing meetings of the full council.

“I like people - I cross the divide. I'm impartial and I will be fair to everybody,” he promised, adding that he had actually come from a Labour-supporting family before his political allegiance later changed.

In accepting the nomination to be chairman, he also reflected on how “surreal” life sometimes was, charting a journey that had seen him leave school aged 15 in order to support his family, through to being awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to the community.

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“My father was a railway wagon builder, my mother a housewife. Rather sadly, six months before my father died at just 38, [there was] an accident and my mother was disabled. I had to leave school at 15 to take on a job to help with the family.

“But have a look at what happened in the rest of my life. I joined a voluntary organisation [and] I became a local officer, a regional officer, a national officer and then the national president. I was elected as a parish councillor and have been elected as a borough councillor, [and then to] the county council.

“And I'm never sure whether the biggest honour I had was to get the BEM or that somebody bothered to recognise me and actually nominate me [for it].

“I still don't know to this day who that person was. But one of the things that I want to do [in this role], without a shadow of a doubt, [is to show] that people across Lancashire are some of the best people. If you know somebody who deserves an award, please nominate them, because there are so many people who deserve it.

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“Let's work for Lancashire, let's promote Lancashire and let's make Lancashire the place it should be,” added County Cllr Cullens, who was born in Heywood and moved to Chorley almost 40 years ago.

He said that his wife, Magda, a fellow member of Chorley Council - an authority on which he has sat for 14 out of the last 19 years and where he is currently the Conservative opposition group leader - would be his consort in the chairman’s role at County Hall.

That, he explained, was likely to mean that they would probably be seeing “a lot more of each other” - for which he offered a tongue-in-cheek apology.

He was first elected to the county council in 2016, for what was a 10-month stint, before being re-elected in 2021 for a four-year term. He has had a career that has spanned branch banking and HR – and he and Magda have one daughter and four grandchildren.

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Nominating County Cllr Cullens for the role, cabinet member for economic development and growth Aidy Riggott described him as "a kind, generous, warm and engaging Lancastrian who is genuinely interested in meeting people”.

County Cllr Tim Ashton will continue as vice-chairman. He told the meeting that it was a day of “mixed emotions” as he remembered Keith Iddon and said that his passing was a “true loss” to the authority.