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Tributes paid after death of former Norwich City Council chief executive

John Packer, who was chief executive of Norwich City Council from 1989 until 2000. Pic: Archant Library.

John Packer, who was chief executive of Norwich City Council from 1989 until 2000. Pic: Archant Library.

Tributes have been paid following the death of a former chief executive of Norwich City Council.

John Packer, OBE, who held the top officer post at City Hall between 1989 and the start of 2000, died on Friday, December 7 at the age of 75.

Mr Packer began his career as an agricultural labourer in Somerset - but rose through the ranks of local authorities before his arrival in Norwich.

He began his career in local government in the housing department at Bristol City Council in 1972.

In 1981 he became chief executive of a borough council in North Wales with a male unemployment figure of 30pc. When he left, for Norfolk, in 1989 the total unemployment figure was down to seven per cent.

During his time at City Hall, Mr Packer was instrumental in helping to set up the Norwich Area Development Agency, the New Deal for Communities in Norwich and the New Community Law Initiative. In 1998 he was made an OBE for his services to local government.

Five years before that, Mr Packer was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He retired from City Hall in January 2000.

Alan Waters, Labour leader of Norwich City Council, worked alongside Mr Packer when he was previously leader at City Hall in the 1990s.

He said: “When people say Norwich has come on over the past 20 years, I think John had a significant part in that. He was a really good strategic thinker.

“I remember when Nestle closed the chocolate factory, that was a big shock to the city and it was John who mobilised the response to that. He also played a big part in bringing forward The Forum.
“I really enjoyed working with him. He was a great servant to Norwich.”

He leaves his wife Elizabeth, sons Matthew (a Labour city councillor and cabinet member), Oliver, Joseph and Thomas and grandchildren Finbar, Angus, Orla and Izabelle.

His cremation will be a private ceremony, but a celebration of Mr Packer’s life will take place at Eye Town Hall, in the Suffolk village he made his home, from 2pm on Saturday, December 22.

His family has asked for no flowers, but invited donations to Parkinson’s UK care of Susan Whymark Funeral Service Ltd, Chestnut House, 12, Progress Way, Eye, Suffolk IP23 7HU.

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