Ann Ducker MBE, Leader of SODC, Dies

anne-duckerAnn Ducker, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, passed away on Sunday, following a short illness.

Ann was first elected to South Oxfordshire district council in 1983, and was subsequently returned on a further seven occasions by the electorate of Goring Ward as their representative, serving 32 unbroken years as a councillor.  She was chairman of the council for two years between 1992 and 1994, becoming leader of the Conservative group in 1995 and Leader of the Council in 2003.

Ann represented the council on many outside bodies including the Oxfordshire LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership).  In 2011 Ann was chosen by her Conservative colleagues in the South East as one of their representatives on the executive of the District Councils’ Network, a body representing the interests of district councils’ nationally.

In 2008 Ann was short-listed as potential Conservative candidate for the Henley parliamentary seat vacated by Boris Johnson, narrowly losing out to the present M.P. John Howell.

In 2010 Ann was awarded an MBE for services to local government, an award that brought great pleasure.  She often spoke fondly of her investiture at Windsor Castle and the pride she felt not just for herself but the whole council.

In Ann’s period of leadership the council took the pioneering decision to enter into joint working with the Vale of White Horse district council, at the time under Liberal Democrat control.  What started as a project to introduce shared management across the two councils blossomed into something much larger with the two councils now sharing the vast majority of services, saving council tax payers many millions of pounds in the process.

Ann also oversaw the introduction of new refuse collection arrangements in 2007 when wheeled bins hit the streets of South Oxfordshire for the first time.  Despite some teething problems and significant public disquiet, Ann held firm insisting that this was the best way forward.  She was proved right, with recycling in South Oxfordshire now being the highest in the country, public satisfaction with the service at record levels and protests about wheeled bins consigned to history.

Ann Midwinter, Chairman of the Council, said: “The news of Ann’s death brings huge sadness to everyone at the council.  She has been an exemplary public servant for many years, always putting the interests of residents above party politics.  Her MBE awarded in 2010 for services to local government was fully merited and brought great pleasure not just to me but all councillors, friend and foe.  I will miss her incisive contributions at meetings, her desire to achieve consensus wherever possible and her determination at all times to do her best for the people of South Oxfordshire.  She will be sorely missed.”

David Buckle, Chief Executive of the Council, said: “This is a very sad day.  Ann was respected and liked by all of the staff working for both councils.  She was always fair in her dealings with staff, sometimes challenging proposals but ready to change her view if the evidence was there.  The introduction of wheeled bins was a good example of this.  Ann’s initial opposition turned to support once she saw that residents would back the idea as long is it increased recycling rates, which we knew it would.

“I had the pleasure of working with Ann too on the national stage at the Local Government Association and District Councils’ Network.  When Ann spoke everyone listened because they knew that what she would say would make perfect sense.  She was never afraid to voice an opinion, however much that opinion might run contrary to the prevailing view.

“This will be a difficult few weeks for staff and councillors as the news of Ann’s passing sinks in.  She was such a central figure in the council for so many years that it will take us a little time to adjust to life without her.”