Councillor bows out after 17 years of representing communities

Brian and Janet Holmes.
Brian and Janet Holmes.

It was 2001 when Janet Holmes, a retired shorthand typist and long-standing member of the Labour party, was encouraged to stand in a Wakefield Council by-election.

Success, she says, was not expected, but she won a seat in the Horbury and South Ossett ward, joining her husband Brian, who had already been representing the same ward since 1998.

Mrs Holmes, who has now stood down, said: “I knew I couldn’t change Horbury very much because it is such a beautiful little town and people didn’t want it changing.”

But during her the 17 years in local politics, she has helped to improve the community - and made history twice. Setting up community group the Horbury Village Partnership is one of her proudest achievements, as well as working alongside Horbury Churches Together to provide opportunities for young people.

She has also helped to get CCTV for Horbury and had a bench installed in memory of schoolchildren Bobby and Christi Sheppard, who died whilst on holiday in Corfu.

She said: “I have absolutely enjoyed helping people and representing Horbury and South Ossett. They are down to earth, lovely, people and great to work with. But I knew it was time for me to stand down.”

Mrs Holmes is the only councillor to have been Mayor of Wakefield twice. But the accolade is one which is bittersweet.

In 2004 she became the first female Mayor in 20 years and during her time in office, welcomed the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh to the city to hand out Maundy money. She hosted a lunch for the Royals at the Town Hall, taking a seat next to the Queen.

“She was so easy to talk to, so normal I thought,” Mrs Holmes said. “We had rhubarb for pudding. I told her we were famous in Wakefield for rhubarb - I don’t think she had tried it before but she seemed to like it.”

In 2013, Mr Holmes was made Mayor, meaning the couple made history as the first married pair to have both held the position.

But the year took a sad and unexpected turn when Mr Holmes died suddenly in October 2013.

Mrs Holmes said: “I took over and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Brian was so well-liked by everybody. He really was a good man.

“I found it really difficult to work without him. I had always had him by my side the whole time - we were a great team.

“I wanted desperately to do him proud and to finish what he started.”

Mrs Holmes will not contest her seat in next month’s local council elections.