Councillor Alan Downing, who represents St. Mary's Ward, became the London Borough of Bexley's 49th Mayor at the Council's Annual Meeting on Wednesday 16 May 2012. His Mayoress is his wife, Councillor Ross Downing. Councillor Downing is the 73rd person to hold the title of Mayor of Bexley, since the old Borough received its charter in 1937.
Alan Downing was born in April 1940 in Battersea, SW London. A lifelong Chelsea FC fan, Alan was awarded a scholarship to attend the respected Emmanuel Public School, Wandsworth, at 11yo, which he acknowledges was a wonderful opportunity.
At 16 years old, Alan decided that his future was with the Police force and he joined the City Of London as a young cadet, eventually becoming a full time police officer at 19. The year was 1959 and Alan was posted to Snow Hill, and he eventually served at many of the other police stations in the City. At 23yo, Alan was appointed as the youngest detective in the force and a long career in crime fighting beckoned.
At 18 years old, while on holiday with friends, Alan met his future wife Ross a partnership that has lasted for 52 years and will now lead Bexley's Mayoralty for the next 12 months. Alan and Ross have two children, Debbie and Mark and three grandchildren, Lauren, Hannah and Erin.
In 1965, the career prospects, and challenge and variety of working in a bigger force drew him to the Metropolitan Police force, where after initial training, he was posted to the old station in Bexleyheath town centre, beginning a long association with the Borough. This first job role in Bexleyheath only lasted 18 months, as promotion took Alan off to the Elephant and Castle, Southwark, which was a much busier posting. After a while, he was transferred to a job within the courts, serving at Camberwell and Woolwich Courts, but promotion again meant a new journey over to Barking then Woolwich, later serving with the Community Liaison and Juvenile Bureau Team. This was work that Alan really enjoyed, serving and working closely with the local community - a role that he has carried through his adult life. Alan says: "I have worked hard throughout my life to ensure that our streets are safe for people to walk on and I am proud that I live and work in one of the safest boroughs in the capital, which is testament to our residents, businesses and visitors."
Alan was asked to help set up and run the London Senior Attendance Centre, working with young men aged 18 to 21years old to encourage an alternative life to one spent in prison. Alan remembers his time at the Centre with satisfaction and pride.
The call of private business, and the lure of summer sunshine, meant that Alan and Ross spent much of the next 15 years travelling between Southern Spain and the Borough. It was during this period that Alan became 'El Presidente' of his local urbanisation in Spain. The equivalent of a community leader, but with many local responsibilities and Alan talks warmly of his work for that area of Spain. Alan says: "I had responsibility for a number of key issues, including the supply and upkeep of the local water, electricity and road services. Working with local Spanish politicians was a wonderful opportunity and I learnt a new language, some of which I still remember!"
Although successful in the design, building and selling of property in Spain, the family pull of grandchildren eventually succeeded and in 1999, Alan and Ross finally returned to their home in Bexley and Alan took a job in the City as a Corporate Broker.
Alan has always held a keen interest in politics, but his former life as a police officer and business interests curtailed his opportunities, but his return to England meant that he could now pursue his ambitions and it was not long before the opportunity arose to stand for election in 2002 as a Conservative Councillor for the St Mary's Ward, which he successfully attained. Alan has worked hard both as the Chairman of Leisure, Arts and Tourism and the Crime and Disorder Committee, in addition to his work as the Chief Whip within the Council. Both Alan and Ross are very excited about the year that lays ahead of them. Alan says: "There is so much to do and we are very much looking forward to meeting as many people as we possibly can. In particular, we are looking forward to visiting our schools and we encourage our Borough's children to come and visit us in the Parlour at Bexleyheath. Our Borough has a rich history and heritage of which we should all be very proud and I want to share that with the children who come along to meet with us."
Alan is clearly passionate about his chosen charities, the Diabetics UK Bexley Support Group and 'Help for Heroes'. Alan says: "As someone who has been diagnosed with Diabetes, I want to help raise the profile of the help and support available within our Borough. I am also conscious of the service, commitment and heroism shown by our local Territorial Army Unit, the 265 (Kent and County of London Yeomanry) Support Sqn (Sharpshooters), based within 71 Signal Regiment. Most of the men and women of the unit have served in theatres across the globe, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have been injured, while others have not made it home safely at all and I want to raise some funds to support those who come back to the Borough, but suffering with lifelong health issues."
Alan has appointed Past Mayor, Councillor Brian Beckwith to be his Deputy Mayor and Councillor Beckwith's wife, herself a Councillor and Past Mayor, Aileen Beckwith, to be the Deputy Mayoress. The Mayor has appointed The Reverend Scott Lamb, St John the Evangelist Church, Sidcup, as his Chaplain.