The bow-tied biker: Meet the larger-than-life character who is now leader of AVDC

The new leader of AVDC Cllr Neil Blake
The new leader of AVDC Cllr Neil Blake

The sign on his office door still says John Cartwright, but Neil Blake is undoubtedly the man in charge now at Aylesbury Vale District Council.

The retired businessman, known for his bow ties and motorcycle, has taken up the leadership after being elected by Conservative councillors.

The new leader of AVDC Cllr Neil Blake

The new leader of AVDC Cllr Neil Blake

He has been the authority’s money guru for four years and the way he has handled the financial constraints put on it made him a strong candidate for his new job.

Mr Blake, 65, has two daughters, Tamzin, 38, and Jessica, 35, and his wife Janet is also a high-flying local politician, being the cabinet member for transport at Bucks County Council, making them the most formidable political couple in Bucks.

He said: “Each of us is out during the day and it’s nice to get away from politics at home. But we do try to help each other and talk things through and send emails through the day. It’s an excellent way of getting information through to each other.”

Mr Blake is familiar with tackling cash woes – he is a life member of his local cricket club in Great Brickhill after rescuing their finances.

His career has been in a variety of fields, most recently running a fruit and veg wholesaler and three snooker clubs.

Mr Blake said: “Snooker’s a nice relaxing game. There’s no shouting and running around.

“I have played quite a lot but I don’t seem to get better.”

The leader has given up his business interests to run the council, and you can’t blame him.

The authority is likely to face further government cuts and there is the small matter of getting the north side of Aylesbury’s Exchange Street developed.

He takes over after 13 years of Mr Cartwright at the helm. But how will his reign differ from that of his predecessor?

“I like to think I’m perhaps a bit more open,” said Mr Blake. “I’m not criticising John, but I have always had a very open approach to my business. It shouldn’t just be cabinet that dictates things to the other members.

“You should encourage ideas to flow from the bottom up to the cabinet.”

This won’t be the only difference, though. Arriving to work on a motorcycle (a BMW R1150GS, if you’re interested) wearing a bow tie isn’t the usual image of a council leader.

Mr Blake got into motorcycles after years of renting scooters on holiday.

And the bow ties? Are they inspired by Matt Smith’s depiction of Doctor Who?

“No, I think he copied me,” says Mr Blake.

“My father used to wear them and I thought it was quite smart. Then my mother decided she would make some for me, usually off the cut of dresses she made. I’ve never really worn a conventional tie since then.”

The new leader says some non-essential services may need to be cut and council tax could go up to fund ‘beneficial’ projects, but he wants to look at other means of generating income. He has also not ruled out the idea of a unitary authority for Bucks, but says now is not the time to look at creating one.