One to one with Keith Vaz

Wednesday 17th February 2016 07:53 EST

Justin Griggs is a champion for parish councils, campaigner and father of three. The son of a motor mechanic and shop manageress, Justin grew up in Hythe in south-east Kent and attended the Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone. Despite never intending to go to university, instead wanting to play snooker professionally, he obtained a BA (Hons) degree from Staffordshire University in business studies, spending his placement year working for Stoke-on-Trent City Council in the chief executive’s department supporting the transition to unitary status.  Following a number of roles in the private sector he returned to the City Council to work on local government modernisation projects, studying part-time for a postgraduate diploma in business administration. Justin is a parent governor at his children’s primary school and as a keen runner plays an active role in Plumstead Runners running club in south-east London.

1.  What is your current position?

I am head of policy and development at the National Association of Locals, the membership organisation which represents England’s 9,000 parish and town councils.

2. What are your proudest achievements?

Putting parish and town councils on the map and raising the profile of the difference they make to local people and communities; persuading the last Labour government to change the law to allow parish councils in London; then helping the amazing residents in Queen’s Park, Westminster set up the first ever parish council in inner London.

3.  What inspires you?

The tens of thousands people who work in and with our councils – councillors, clerks, staff, volunteers – really awesome people who give up so much time to make their area better and improve quality of life. And my kids, who I just adore.

 4. What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?

I’ve been very fortunate in my career, but when I began working in local government my bald head attracted quite a lot of attention. I started losing my hair at university so when I started shaving it I received mixed reactions, especially as I’m also over six feet tall.

5. Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?

My parents who instilled a strong work ethic from an early age; and my friend and colleague Crispin Moor who was a senior government official on rural issues, he very sadly died from a brain tumour a few years ago and was so supportive in my early days at NALC and continued to help me both professionally and personally. 

6.  What is the best aspect about your current role?

Working with some really talented and committed people, both at NALC in county associations of local councils, all helping our councils help local people. 

7. And the worst?

Not nearly enough positive media coverage about the great work parish and town councils do. 

8. What are your long term goals?

To see more people getting involved in their community as parish and town councillors, especially people from diverse backgrounds and younger people. Councillors are often described as ‘male, pale and stale’ and more needs to be done to change that. 

9.  If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change? 

I’d parish the whole country to strengthen local democracy and put more communities in control of their areas and better able to influence decisions and how money is spent in their area. 

10.  If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time with and why?

Ian Fleming. I’m a huge spy and James Bond fan so would never get bored of hearing tales about his time in British Naval Intelligence and his exuberant, adventurous lifestyle.

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