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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Actress Keith takes on sheriff role
The Good Life
Keith (r) played the snobbish Margot in The Good Life
Actress Penelope Keith is taking on a new role as High Sheriff of Surrey, in a job that will see her complete tasks including declaring election results.

She is only the third woman to take the position in the county of her birth since it was created more than 1,000 years ago.

She is due to be formally invested in the post on Wednesday evening by the Queen's representative in the county, Lord-Lieutenant Sarah Goad, in a ceremony at County Hall, in Kingston-upon-Thames.

The post of high sheriff, historically one of the most powerful positions in local government, is predated only by the monarchy itself.

'Volunteers'

Ms Keith, famous for her work in TV sitcoms The Good Life and To The Manor Born, said she was "honoured" to have been chosen for office.

"I hope that I can help to focus attention on some of the marvellous work that is being done in the county, particularly by volunteers," she said.

She said she saw her as an appointment as an opportunity to make a contribution to the Surrey community.

The role of high sheriff is now largely ceremonial, though Ms Keith will retain a statutory duty to collect debts and enforce writs on behalf of the courts.

Penelope Keith
She played Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton in To The Manor Born

She is also the returning officer for Parliamentary constituencies in the county.

High sheriffs are historically responsible for the safety of judges and the maintenance of law and order within their counties.

There are 55 UK high sheriffs, each of whom was nominated for the job by the preceding holder of the post.

Keith was nominated by outgoing high sheriff Bill Biddell, who is due to attend her investiture.

She was confirmed in her new role in the Queen's New Year's Honours List.

See also:

29 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Penelope set for high life
30 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
The Good Life house for sale
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