For the leader of one of Norfolk's biggest councils, it is certainly a striking statement.

Terry Parish, the man who turfed the Tories out of West Norfolk Council after more than a decade in power, insists he is not a politician.

"I don't like politics," he adds. So it seems reasonable to ask what he does stand for.

Mr Parish is the only independent leader of a major Norfolk council and his ruling group - seven independents and one green - is the only one with no representatives of any of the major parties.

He entered the spotlight after the local elections in May, when he was able to assemble his coalition to remove the Conservatives from office.

Eastern Daily Press: Terry Parish outside West Norfolk Council's officesTerry Parish outside West Norfolk Council's offices (Image: West Norfolk Council)

Since then, not everything has gone smoothly.

One senior cabinet member quit following a dispute with Mr Parish, which saw his administration accused of lacking "common decency" and showing disrespect.

His views have also led some to claim he is "anti-tourist" because of his outspoken concerns over the impact of second homes and calls for tourists to ‘go elsewhere’ to prevent the district’s premier holiday destination – Hunstanton – from becoming overcrowded.

Yet Mr Parish himself is an incomer.

Eastern Daily Press: The beach in Heacham, where Terry Parish first became a parish councillorThe beach in Heacham, where Terry Parish first became a parish councillor (Image: Newsquest)

"I don't like politics"

The former teacher moved to Norfolk from Wolverhampton ten years ago.

He went on to stand as a parish councillor in Heacham in order to have more say over planning decisions and was elected as a district councillor in 2016.

At a recent council meeting, he was keen to set his administration apart from the major political parties, arguing that their decisions are simply made to win votes, whereas he was more interested in what is “best for the country”.

“In this council, it should be ‘what can we do that’s best for the people of west Norfolk?’, not political scoring,” he said.

“I’m not a politician. I don’t like politics.”

“If we can work together then we can create a better system of governance.”

Eastern Daily Press: Alexandra Kemp quit her cabinet position in JulyAlexandra Kemp quit her cabinet position in July (Image: Ian Burt)

Trouble in power

His hopes of harmony and co-operation haven’t been borne out so far, after disagreements over the council’s direction led cabinet member Alexandra Kemp to quit in July.

Her resignation letter claimed "values of common human decency" had been trampled, and that those who "speak up for equal treatment for all" had been "treated with disrespect".

She remains a vocal critic of Mr Parish and the running of the council.

But Mr Parish has said he hopes they have resolved their issues. "I don’t live in the past, I like to move forward,” he adds.

Eastern Daily Press: A view over King's LynnA view over King's Lynn (Image: Newsquest)

Future plans

As a keen astronomer, Mr Parish often has his eye on the sky, but he would hope his plans for the district are not as distant as the stars he spends his evenings marvelling at.

Last week, he set out his administration’s four-year corporate strategy for the district, which emphasised key priorities including creating job opportunities and developing local people’s skills, protecting the environment, improving infrastructure and supporting the health and well-being of the borough’s communities.

Tackling the lack of access to NHS dental services is also a key issue.

Mr Parish acknowledged that the council faces an uphill battle with its finances and needs to make sure it balances its books to avoid running out of money.

According to research by Unison, West Norfolk Council is forecasted to have a gap in funding of more than £3m.

Ensuring services are cost-effective and delivered efficiently is therefore another key aspect of his four-year strategy.

If this is not done, he has warned the council’s pot of reserves will dwindle to the lowest required amount.

Eastern Daily Press: Terry Parish has recently suggested King's Lynn should create a town councilTerry Parish has recently suggested King's Lynn should create a town council (Image: Malcolm Bubb)

Getting a fair share

Mr Parish recently ruffled feathers at County Hall in an attempt to get West Norfolk a larger share of money.

He did so after West Norfolk's finance officer told him the district missed out on about £1m a year because of how business rates are pooled between councils.

By contrast, Mr Parish says, other local authorities benefit from the arrangement.

“I cannot understand the logic of it,” he says.

“Nobody could tell me the answer other than this is how it has always worked.

“The county council will say that we get the money in other ways through funding for capital projects.

“But these still require ongoing revenue spending.”

Eastern Daily Press: The town hall in King's Lynn, where West Norfolk Council's decisions are madeThe town hall in King's Lynn, where West Norfolk Council's decisions are made (Image: Newsquest)

New council for Lynn?

The sense in the west of the county that the area is somehow the poor relation of the rest of Norfolk is nothing new.

Mr Parish certainly senses it.

One remedy, he believes, could be the creation of a dedicated town council for King's Lynn, to give its residents a greater political voice.

Devolution critic

But while he favours devolving power, it needs to be done in the right way.

He has joined other district leaders in criticising Norfolk’s devolution deal, saying county councillors have been too weak in their negotiations with Westminster and should be asking for more money.

Under the plans, the council could get an investment fund of £600m over 30 years but Mr Parish wants the decision delayed in the hopes of getting a better deal from ministers.

“If the decision is pushed back after Christmas when things are hotting up for the election, we may find Norfolk gets offered a better deal to win the government some votes."

For a man who claims not to be a politician and not to even like politics, it sounds like a decidedly political calculation.