Former New Milton councillor Goff Beck set for Honorary Freeman title for voluntary work with Royal British Legion
A former long-serving and controversial New Milton councillor is set to become the town’s third honorary freeman for years of voluntary service.
Goff Beck (89) has been nominated for the prestigious title by the town council, primarily for his dedication to the local Royal British Legion branch, of which he is vice chairman.
Described as “a New Milton man through and through”, Mr Beck led the annual Remembrance Sunday parade for about 12 years before stepping down last November.
A resolution to award the accolade must now be passed by at least two thirds of the council at a specially convened meeting.
The two previous freemen were late ex-council colleagues, councillors John Hutchins and Alan Rice.
Welcoming the nomination, RBL New Milton branch president Paul Jepson called ex-Royal Marine Mr Beck a stalwart member and “natural choice” to be parade marshal.
“A New Milton man through and through, Goff has always been at the forefront in representing the town and his constituents as a councillor and as vice chairman of the town's branch of the legion,” Mr Jepson said.
“During his years as parade marshal he has seen the event flourish and the gentle guidance and encouragement he has given to the young participants of the town is exemplary.”
Mr Beck told the A&T being nominated was “an outstanding honour”.
“I’m really thrilled as a true Miltonian – born and bred in New Milton,” he said.
“I really feel I need to thank a number of people who have helped and assisted me in my duties in local government, both on New Milton Town Council and New Forest District Council.
“I love my town. I’ve seen many changes in my time.”
Mr Beck cited his successful drive to have mayoral status granted to New Milton as a highlight of his career. He became the first to don the chain of office.
Referring to his RBL work, he expressed pride at seeing the number of Remembrance parade participants grow from around 50 to hundreds.
“It’s lovely to see the schools and young people all support it,” he continued.
“It’s been a great thrill being parade marshal, and I shall miss it no end.”
Mr Beck served on the town council for 20 years until 2019, sitting on the planning committee throughout this period. He also chaired the amenities committee.
A series of controversies led to an unsuccessful motion signed by nine Tory town council colleagues in 2012 to boot him out, claiming he had brought the authority into disrepute.
New Forest District Council’s standards board found Mr Beck guilty in September 2009 of bullying former fellow town councillor Margaret Lloyds.
As reported in the A&T at the time, he revealed during a planning meeting private telephone voicemails Cllr Lloyds left her ex-husband during their divorce.
Former town council colleague, the Rev. Barry Rathbone, accused Mr Beck of subjecting him to homophobic comments and gestures.
But NFDC took no action as his complaint was made more than 12 months after the alleged incidents.
In 2015, road safety charity Brake slammed Mr Beck, who was then NFDC representative on the Hampshire Police and Crime Panel, for putting other road users in “grave danger”.
This came after he stunned a Hordle Parish Council meeting by saying he drove past a community speedwatch scheme in Wiltshire at 43mph in a 30mph zone to test the system.
New Milton Town Council would not be drawn on the previous indiscretions, with mayor Cllr David Hawkins stressing Honorary Freeman was “not a political award”.
Cllr Hawkins said: “As a local resident and a member of the RBL, Goff Beck recently stood down as parade marshal, a voluntary position that he held and carried out every Remembrance Sunday over many years.
“I would stress the award would be in recognition of his long and eminent service to the town that he provided voluntarily over many years, especially his involvement with the local RBL branch.”