Former colleagues, friends and residents have paid tribute to Linda Arkley OBE, who served as the elected Mayor of North Tyneside twice and passed away on Friday, October 13, 2023.
Linda Arkley was first elected as a Councillor for Tynemouth ward in 1991 and dedicated more than 30 years to serving the people of North Tyneside and resolving their problems. She was a passionate advocate for the area and its residents, communities and businesses. She also had a long and successful career in the NHS as a former nurse and health visitor.
A dedicated public servant
She felt strongly about women being involved in politics and was the borough’s first female Elected Mayor in 2003. She was also one of the UK’s very first Directly Elected Mayors, leading the way for a whole generation of female leaders and in the creation of Elected Mayors across the country.
She served as the Elected Mayor from 2003 to 2005 and from 2009 to 2013, winning two by-elections and two regular elections. She was known for being a formidable politician who reshaped what being an elected representative meant. She was also influential in securing external funding for various projects and initiatives in North Tyneside.
She lost her mayoral seat to Labour’s Norma Redfearn in 2013 but continued to be active in local politics. She stood as a councillor candidate several times and finally made her return to North Tyneside Council in 2021, taking the seat of Cullercoats ward from the Labour Party. She also sought the Conservative nomination for the inaugural North of Tyne Mayoral election in 2019 but lost to local businessman Charlie Hoult.
A heartfelt loss
Linda Arkley passed away on the afternoon of Friday, October 13, 2023, at the age of 71. Her death was met with sadness and shock by many who knew her and worked with her.
Elected Mayor, Dame Norma Redfearn DBE, said: “Hearing this sad news, my thoughts are with Linda’s husband, Ian, her wider family and friends, and the many people in North Tyneside who knew and loved her. Linda was a passionate advocate for North Tyneside, its residents and communities. I have great respect for the dedication she showed to public service both in her roles as a local councillor and former Elected Mayor. She will be sadly missed by all”.
Linda Arkley’s achievements
- She was the first female Elected Mayor of North Tyneside and one of the UK’s very first Directly Elected Mayors.
- She had a long and successful career in the NHS as a former nurse and health visitor.
- She was influential in securing external funding for various projects and initiatives in North Tyneside.
- She won two by-elections and two regular elections as the Elected Mayor and also regained a council seat in 2021 after several attempts.
Linda Arkley’s Career Beside Mayor
She was a councillor for Tynemouth ward from 1991 to 1995 and from 1996 to 2003. During this time, she served as deputy leader of the Conservative group on North Tyneside council and in cabinet under Conservative Mayor, Chris Morgan. She was a councillor for Preston Ward from 2005 to 2009. She won the seat in a by-election after the previous councillor, Martin Van Der Merwe, resigned due to ill health.
She was a councillor for Cullercoats ward from 2021 until her death. She regained the seat from the Labour Party in the 2021 local elections, with a majority of 1,036 votes.
She was a candidate for the North of Tyne Mayoral election in 2019 but lost the nomination to Charlie Hoult. She announced her intention to run on International Women’s Day, saying that she wanted to make sure it was not a male-dominated race. She also said that she had the experience and vision to lead the new devolved authority.
Linda Arkley’s political ideology was based on her affiliation with the Conservative Party, which is one of the two major political parties in the United Kingdom. The Conservative Party is generally considered to be centre-right on the political spectrum, and advocates for free markets, individual liberty, limited government, national sovereignty, and traditional values.
Some of the main policies and positions that Linda Arkley supported or implemented as a Conservative politician were:
- Reducing council tax and spending: Linda Arkley claimed that she had reduced council tax by 7.5% in real terms during her first term as Mayor. She also pledged to freeze council tax for four years in her 2009 manifesto. She criticised the Labour administration for increasing council tax and spending and accused them of wasting money on consultants and bureaucracy.
- Promoting economic development and regeneration: Linda Arkley was influential in securing external funding for various projects and initiatives in North Tyneside, such as the £60 million Cobalt Business Park, the £30 million Tyne Tunnel 2, the £25 million Whitley Bay Seafront Master Plan, and the £13 million Wallsend Customer First Centre. She also supported the creation of the North of Tyne Combined Authority, a devolved body that would have more powers and resources to boost the local economy.
- Improving education and skills: Linda Arkley championed the improvement of education and skills in North Tyneside, especially for young people. She oversaw the completion of the Building Schools for the Future programme, which refurbished or rebuilt 16 secondary schools in the borough. She also launched the North Tyneside Learning Trust, a partnership between schools, businesses and other organisations to raise standards and aspirations. She also supported apprenticeships, vocational training and adult learning opportunities.
- Enhancing community safety and wellbeing: Linda Arkley prioritised community safety and wellbeing in her mayoral agenda. She introduced CCTV cameras, street wardens, anti-social behaviour teams and neighbourhood policing teams to tackle crime and disorder. She also invested in health and social care services, such as mental health support, dementia care, children’s centres and domestic abuse prevention. She also promoted sports, leisure and cultural activities, such as free swimming for children and older people, library improvements and festivals.
Linda Arkley’s political ideology was shaped by her personal background, values and experience. As a former nurse and health visitor, she cared deeply about public health and social justice. As a woman in politics, she felt strongly about women’s empowerment and representation. As a resident of North Tyneside, she was passionate about its people and potential. She was a dedicated public servant who served the borough for more than 30 years with conviction and commitment.