AS a long time supporter of the County Gazette – as all Taunton Deane residents should - I look to buying my weekly copy with excitement, but last week’s front page brought sadness with the picture of long-serving council leader, John Meikle, plus a big “Goodbye John” caption

Sadness in that John and I were part of a select few local residents still alive who were Taunton Deane Councillors at the time of that historic first formation of this new council in 1973/74, formed from the enormous merger of all urban and rural district councils into one.

I was a loud rebellious backbencher for 18 years, whereas John was Conservative Party and council leader for just as many. 

However, despite this difference and being on definitely opposite sides of the left-right political divide, I always respected him for his hard work, dedication and skill in all his immense local public service to Taunton Deane and beyond.

He certainly deserved the big recognition given him by the Gazette and other councillors and councils. 

READ MORE: Tributes to council stalwart John Meikle, who has passed away
WANT TO WRITE? Click here to submit your letter

His longevity as council activist was something I always tried to emulate, as I often told him. 

Mind you, his calling me Debenham rather than Alan wasn’t the most pleasant, but it probably was a leftover from his public school days, where surnames prevail. 

As a current Staplegrove Parish Councillor I was pleased, if puzzled, that our parish church was chosen for his funeral service and burial, although another outside attender explained that this is where John was married.

Like Meikle, I’ll never stop learning things as old as I am and with his being my local government endurance model, I’m aiming for the century as he was. 

May his legacy of local council and community devotion live on!

The abject disaster of the merger of Taunton Deane with West Somerset should have taught us all that bigger is not better and if we support the county council’s money/jobs-cutting zeal for ‘One Somerset’ rather than the district councils’ proposal for ‘Stronger Somerset’, then democracy itself will be the big loser, just as in the other Tory cost-cutting exercises of the new dictatorships of regional/city mayors and council cabinets. 

Please write to Robert Jenrick, MP and Councils’ Secretary of State at Westminster ASAP!