Interview with West Berkshire Councillor Dennis Benneyworth

Dennis Benneyworth is one of the three councillors representing the ward of Kintbury and Hungerford. During the 2019 local election campaign, I noticed that his job was described as ‘in-flight horse attendant’. This, to a horse-unaware person like me, was completely mysterious and seemed worth following up. The answer to this and other questions posed to him by Penny Post are below. 

When did you first become a West Berkshire Council Councillor? 

I was elected to WBC in 2015 to the old Victoria Ward in Newbury (by a landslide of four votes!).

What jobs have you had (or still do have)? 

In my younger, thinner and braver days I was a jockey; in fact, it’s the reason I ended up in this area in the first place. I was drawn to the jumping mecca of Lambourn and worked for Oliver Sherwood for several years. Both my first and last rides were winners (there were a few more in between). I retired after beating Richard Dunwoody in in a photo finish at Ludlow in an end-of-season four-runner novice hurdle on bone-hard ground at Ludlow – possibly the worst race of the 1989-90 jumps season.

After hanging up my boots, I worked for the Sporting Life and subsequently Racing Post as a race reader and travelled the racecourses of Britain giving a horse-by-horse account of the day’s meeting. This brief commentary gave punters an insight as to how each horse had run on that day and made up part of each horse’s form. I filled my quieter spells of work by becoming involved with shipping horses internationally by air and gradually this has become my job.

Although freelance, I work extensively for a Dubai-based company and, consequently, find myself frequently shuttling to or from the Emirates. One of my other regular employers has the contract for many of the world’s major equestrian events and I will be involved with trial events to Japan over the next few weeks to ensure smooth shipment of horses ahead of next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.

Sounds interesting. I presume things don’t always go to plan, though…

Not always. I remember a charter flight to Riyadh many years ago on an old (even then) DC8 with 20 in-foal mares. We were due to off-load the horses on arrival and dead-head home on the ageing freighter. 

One of the mares decided to foal 36,000 ft over Turkey. That was stressful while it lasted but it turned out to be the easy bit as the plane went sick on arrival in Saudi. We now had two administrative problems: no health papers for one of the horses, for obvious reasons; and no visas for my colleagues and I, as we hadn’t intended to stay in the country.

Faced with the prospect of a prolonged stop in a dry state while the plane problem was sorted (probably spent in the airport arrivals hall as it was unlikely that without documents they’d let us get to a hotel – films and books have since been written about this nightmare) one of my ever-resourceful flying-groom pals smooth-talked the immigration officer – who was in a good mood as he he had bagged a handful of illegal immigrants – and we and we managed to get ourselves onto the next flight out of there (and with a non-dry carrier).

Council work can also be pretty hectic at times (though in a different way from the above) but when I am at home I have lots of time to deal with council and ward issues. If I happen to be overseas I’m only an email away.

I can vouch for that: your last email to me was from Lima in Peru. What took you there – you haven’t been taking Paddington Bear home, have you?

No, he’s happily settled in London. I’m here delivering 13 horses for the Pan American Games.

How would you define what a District Councillor does?

I believe it’s pretty simple: helping residents and acting as a conduit between the town and parish councils and the district and ensuring that the voices of the residents are heard at WBC.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve seen in West Berkshire since you’ve been on the Council?

Undoubtedly it’s been the cutting of the Revenue Support Grant, the money which comes from the government to fund councils, and the resulting challenge of ensuring that we provide the very best of service for the least amount of money.

What would you say was the achievement as Councillor of which you’re most proud?

Representing a ward in the heart of Newbury whilst living in Hungerford was a challenge and getting to know the area and its people from a standing start took a bit of doing but I feel (and hope) that I did an OK job.

This might sound trite but it’s any time that you can bring about a difference in someone’s life. To be honest, nobody gets in touch with their District Councillor for fun: it’s when they have a problem and it’s great to be able to help .

What is the main thing that you hope to accomplish in this role over the next four years?

More of the above and supporting Hungerford and Kintbury.

It’s well known that all local councils have faced some unprecedented financial challenges recently. What challenges do you think the next four years will provide?

With WBC having declared a climate emergency recently we will have to find ways in which the district can work more efficiently and plan for a cleaner, greener future.

Imagine for a moment that you’re on Desert island Discs. What would be the one piece of music that you’d want to have with you?

I’ve just checked iplayer on my phone and the most played is California Soul by Marlena Shaw so that’ll do!

And the book?

I’m not a great reader; I usually drop off on a plane a few paragraphs in. Any sporting biography is a winner by me and The Squire by Richard Onslow kept me awake for a page or two. (By my standards that’s pretty high praise.)

And the luxury object?

A gin and tonic dispenser.

See also…

Interview with Judith Bunting, MEP for the South East of England

Interview with West Berkshire Councillor James Cole

Interview with West Berkshire Councillor Claire Rowles

Helen Simpson, Mayor of Hungerford – my goals and aspirations

 

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up to the free weekly

Penny Post

e-newsletter 

for local, positive news, events, jobs, recipes, recommendations & more.

Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale