Life after Huntingdonshire - more than a summer’s lease

AFTER 16 years in Huntingdonshire, where do you go? Chiantishire, if you’re district council chief executive David Monks.

The 59-year-old Geordie lawyer, who has been a local authority chief executive for the past 28 years, will spend much of next month in Umbria or Tuscany looking for a new home in his beloved Italy with his wife Carole, who recently retired from Cambridgeshire County Council.

But he will be back at the council’s Pathfinder House headquarters in Huntingdon afterwards to complete the handover of HDC’s administrative leadership to his three senior colleagues – because he is taking voluntary redundancy from the �150,000-a-year post, there will be no new chief executive.

“I’m looking forward to the next stage of my life, when it is no longer defined by my job,” he told The Hunts Post.

The move to Italy comes as little surprise, though the couple will keep their riverside home in Hartford for the time being.

Mr Monks is an opera-lover – Puccini is a particular favourite, which makes central Italy doubly attractive – a motorsport enthusiast and ardent Ferrari fan, even though he has now forsaken his second prancing horse for a BMW Z4, and has a passion for Italian food and wine.

So when he says: “It’s cheaper to have an Italian house than an Italian car,” he is not talking about a Fiat Quinquecento: his mind is firmly in Maranello, home of Ferrari.

Most Read

He will continue to be a regular visitor to Monza and Imola – “we have never actually sat in the seats we have booked, because there’s already someone else in them, but they make sure we don’t lose out. They’re very passionate.”

“I enjoy decent food and wine, but you need to go into the places where Italians go, often where there’s no menu. I once came across a place where they were cooking in Barolo [one of Italy’s greatest red wines, and a Monks favourite]. That was really special. And I always think pasta tastes different in Italy.”

One thing the Monkses will not be doing if their house-hunting is successful is building work.

“We don’t want to buy a wreck. I’m not a great DIY man, though I might do a bit of decorating. And in the meantime, we might well rent somewhere nearby, so that we can get the feel of the place.

Clearly, Huntingdonshire has left its mark on the process: a small town or large village will be the target location – even if the combination of Tuscany and Umbria offers rather more choice than our corner of eastern England.

“I can speak a little restaurant or shop Italian, so I would like to improve that and learn to write Italian.” And he reckons he might even have a novel in him – but in English, not Italian. “If I get tired of listening to Puccini in my house in Tuscany, I might just get out the word-processor.

“I have the outline of a novel, but it’s about elections so it might be boring – though it has mystery, intrigue and sex in it.”

The son of a Northumbrian Anglican vicar, who will turn 60 next month, has become probably the country’s leading authority on electoral law and practice, subjects on which he has written several books – non-fiction, of course.

After graduating in law from London University and qualifying as a solicitor, he began his local government career with South Yorkshire County Council [nicknamed ‘the independent people’s republic’] in 1973 just as local government was being restructured.

He moved to West Yorkshire County Council in Wakefield before becoming deputy to the chief executive of Harrogate Borough Council, the other side of Leeds. In 1983 came his first chief executive role, at North Warwickshire, based in Atherstone.

He moved to Huntingdonshire in 1995 when Richard Turpin was leader, and last week began to serve his fourth HDC political leader when Councillor Jason Ablewhite succeeded Cllr Ian Bates.

“I have seen a few changes in that time. Now I’m looking for a change myself. But I shall miss some of the people round here.

Mr Monks and his wife, a former churchwarden at All Saints’ Church in Hartford, have two children. Doctor daughter Beccy, 34, is about to become a consultant in public health in Oxford – and the mother of the Monkses’ first grandchild in August – and son Ben, 31, served three Prime Ministers in the 10 Downing Street policy unit before becoming director of a social enterprise company in London.

No doubt they will find Chiantishire an attractive holiday location – even when their parents have returned to the UK to escape the heat of high summer.