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Camden New Journal - OBITUARY
Published: 6 August 2009

Huntly Spence
Hidden legacy of a life devoted to helping others

THE former Conservative councillor Huntly Spence, who died last week aged 84, leaves a hidden legacy across Camden.
Away from his work at the Town Hall, and establishing and managing two successful companies, Huntly worked tirelessly for more than two decades for Camden Itec and Camden Jobtrain – two bodies who offer vocational and technical training to young people.
Huntly’s drive and determination were crucial to the success of both schemes and their influence on the lives of thousands of young people over the years cannot be adequately estimated.
Highgate born in 1925, his father worked in the finance industry and served in the Gordon Highlanders.
Huntly was too young to join the army at the start of the Second World War. He studied civil engineering at London University, and after the end of the war in 1945, he worked for a time for oil companies, and this satisfied both his professional interests and his love of travel, as the job meant he was to move abroad and work, first in Bahrain and then east Africa.
Having married his wife Annette, the couple returned to Britain in the early 1960s and had two sons, Paul and Robert.
Huntly eventually left the oil industry and set up his own construction firm called Woods. His experience in establishing and running the company would leave him in good stead for two other projects which were a major part of his life. One was setting up and managing his own recruitment firm for patent agents, which he ran until a year ago, when he was forced into retirement after suffering a stroke. The other was his tireless voluntary work in training young people with the Camden Itec and Camden Job Train, a role he would later be given an honour for.
Huntly’s first election campaign was in 1971, when the Conservatives went from holding power with 42 councillors to being all but wiped out.
Despite the decimation, Huntly, who stood in the Belsize ward, managed to win a seat.
His interventions in the chamber became legendary among colleagues. His political views were centrist: a One Nation, Heathite Tory who lost faith with the Conservative’s national leadership from Thatcher onwards, he disliked political
excesses on both sides of the chamber.
In the early 1970s, when Labour councillors voted to break the law by not introducing an act which would have pushed up council rents, Huntly decided to propose a motion that the “council should not encourage people to break the law” something the councillors would be doing.
It was a trick used by Huntly to force a discussion on the issue. In 1976, the council owed £150,000 to central government in uncollected rents and the decision was who should pay it: the councillors, themselves, Camden rate payers or tenants who had not been forced to pay their rent.
Huntly spoke in the chamber and memorably called the Labour group a “gang of armchair guerrillas with Walter Mitty dreams of the barricades.”
Other speeches included a passionate attack on plans to build council homes in Branch Hill. He argued the land was too expensive, the scheme a political gimmick and a waste of council resources.
And colleagues recall his skill as an orator on the stump: when the then chancellor Norman Lamont came to back the failed candidacy of Tory Oliver Letwin in Hampstead and Highgate in 1992, Huntly spoke at a rally and those in the crowd recall him overshadowing Lamont with his rhetoric and delivery.
Away from work, Huntly was a keen Spurs fan, loved foreign travel and enjoyed good wine.
From his childhood onwards, he was an avid chess player, representing the Hampstead chess club and played regularly through out his life.
Huntly received his MBE in 2004 for services to disadvantaged young people – and his paternalistic vision of making sure there were training opportunities for all means the product of his life’s work continues to have positive effects on many lives in Camden today.

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