'If you don't mind hard work, it's enjoyable', says former Northamptonshire councillor after 16 years of service

The now 69-year-old attended his first parish council meeting at the age of just 16

Friday, 21st May 2021, 12:35 pm
Updated Friday, 21st May 2021, 12:36 pm

With a bachelor's degree, two masters degrees and a PhD, Steven Hollowell may have been one of the most well-qualified councillors in the country.

The 69-year-old stopped being a councillor when South Northamptonshire Council ended ahead of the recent local elections after 16 years representing Cogenhoe.

It brought to an end an association with local affairs stretching back to 1968 when he attended his first parish meeting aged just 16.

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Steven Hollowell.
Steven Hollowell.

A few years later, he went on to become a parish councillor himself for Cogenhoe and Whiston at the age of 24.

Looking back on his years of service, Mr Hollowell remembers his first parish meeting as a fascinating experience.

He said: "In 1968, there had been a new school built in the village and there was a proposal to buy the old school and turn it into a village hall.

"A parish meeting was held in the old village school in Station Road. I'd never been to a meeting before like that but my father had.

"My father was also a district councillor before me. My father had been on Northampton Rural District Council. He was on the council that helped set up South Northants Council the last time there was a reorganisation.

"And he was also a parish councillor at Cogenhoe. So I went along with him, I think, to this parish meeting, over 60 odd people, some of them very angry.

"I'd never been to anything like that. It absolutely fascinated me."

In 1976, Mr Hollowell was elected on to the parish council alongside his father who became the chairman.

He served for almost 10 years and during that time started his higher education studies.

He earned a degree in education from University of Northampton, a masters in philosophy of education from University of Leicester, a masters in local and regional history at University of Nottingham, and became a doctor of philosophy at Nottingham. He also taught in Northamptonshire schools for 23 years.

In 2003, Mr Hollowell went to work for the county council for seven years as a map team leader which involved public rights of way.

And it was his knowledge of Parliamentary Enclosure, acts of parliament which closed open fields and common land, gained through his studies, that helped him get the job.

In July 2005, he won a by-election for the Cogenhoe ward of South Northamptonshire Council choosing to stand as an independent.

"I was brought up that way," he said. "In the days when my late father was on Northampton Rural and later South Northants, there was no party politics.

"Everybody was an independent, it didn't even crop up. So that was the kind of environment I was brought up in.

"Over 16 years, I've got to know an awful lot of councillors and even the ones who are now on a party ticket say the same thing.

"We are all on a kind of merry-go-round. And South Northants stood out as a council where we didn't do big politics."

Mr Hollowell served on the planning committee and planning policy committee and said he would have stood for the new unitary authority had he been 10 years younger.

And did he enjoy his time as a district councillor?

"Well, it was hard work sometimes," he said. "If you don't mind hard work, it's enjoyable."