Fortune Green's Flick Rea steps down after 35 years on Camden Council
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Camden Liberal Democrats’ former leader says there is a “lot of regret and a small part of relief” as she steps down after serving 35 years as a councillor for Fortune Green.
Flick Rea, who is in her 80s, retired from civic duties in Camden on Friday (June 4) as the councillor with the longest continuous period in office.
The West Hampstead stalwart cited troubles with her health and the return of face-to-face meetings as factors behind her decision.
A by-election in Fortune Green is now set to take place, likely in July, following Flick's retirement.
Nancy Jirira, a West Hampstead nurse whose battle with Covid-19 at the Royal Free Hospital was aired in a BBC documentary last year, will stand as the Liberal Democrat candidate.
Flick told the Ham&High: “I didn't feel I could offer the service that I felt everybody around here deserves.
“When the government said we all had to go back to face-to-face meetings, the idea of trailing off to the town hall for a three-hour meeting just didn't fill me with any pleasure.”
On her proudest achievement in office, Flick pointed to saving and then restoring the Prince of Wales Baths (Kentish Town Sports Centre) “on budget and on time” – “probably a first in the history of Camden,” she quipped.
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The former Fortune Green councillor also reserved a special mention for the installation of a bench in Fortune Green Road in 1986 – and her longstanding seat on the planning committee for more than 30 years.
“I’ve always taken part in trying to make decisions that don’t wreck the borough, the environment or people’s lives,” she said.
“I like to see things improved, not destroyed. So I care a lot about the borough’s heritage and I care a lot about the environment and trees, and I hate it when somebody builds a great building and chops down 12 trees to build it.”
A mother-of-two and grandmother-of-five, Flick worked as an actor after training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
She was elected as a Fortune Green councillor in 1986 and was voted back in eight times including in 2014 when she was the only Lib Dem to sit on Camden Council.
She went on to lead the Camden Liberal Democrats from 1986-2005 and 2010-2021; and she was awarded an MBE in 2013 for her services to local government.
In the 1970s, she set up West Hampstead Amenity and Transport, and the West Hampstead Community Association, both of which she formerly chaired.
The staunch campaigner was also instrumental in setting up local groups including the Friends of West Hampstead Library, the Friends of Hampstead Cemetery, the Fortune Green and West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, and the Jester Festival.
Vowing to carry on supporting local residents – from potholes to “overdevelopment” to “wrestling” with the government – Flick said: “I don’t think I’m going to be disengaged now. I’m not leaving the area.
“I have a nasty feeling that my phone is going to be just as busy with people ringing me up for advice on planning issues and who to contact about repairs.
“The only thing I can’t do in the future is to ring up in a posse sort of way and say ‘it’s Cllr Rea here, will you get this sorted?’
“All I can do is contact a few old friends and say ‘this is worrying everybody, will you please look at it?’”
Flick backed Ms Jirira, who served as a Fortune Green councillor from 2008-2014, to succeed her.
The Liberal Democrat candidate has lived in West Hampstead since the mid-1970s, and has worked as an NHS nurse in Camden for more than 20 years.
Ms Jirira told the Ham&High: "I'm really delighted to be standing to represent the residents of my community of Fortune Green again.
"Flick Rea has done an amazing job of representing us for 35 years, and I would love to carry on her legacy.
"I've live here most of my life, and I have cared for local people as an NHS nurse for over 20 years.
"It would be an absolute honour to serve the local community I have lived in, as an elected councillor again and make sure Fortune Green doesn't get forgotten by the Town Hall."
The remaining candidates are still to be confirmed, but it is expected Camden Conservatives will put forward Ian Cohen, who has lived on the BAM estate in Fortune Green for 50 years and runs a local dry cleaners.
Whichever political stripe, the winning candidate will look to replicate Flick’s impressive form on the ballot paper, with tributes paid across the chamber over the weekend.
“It's a bit like people making eulogies at your funeral except I'm here to hear it, which is very nice,” Flick said.