Leeds City Council recognises councillors’s 104 years of service

The Lord Mayor of Leeds Coun David Congreve, Matthew Lobley, Brenda Lancaster, Thomas Murray, Gerard Francis, Bernard Atha CBE and Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan (left to right) at the Leeds Civic Hall ceremony yesterday.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds Coun David Congreve, Matthew Lobley, Brenda Lancaster, Thomas Murray, Gerard Francis, Bernard Atha CBE and Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan (left to right) at the Leeds Civic Hall ceremony yesterday.

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More than a century of service to our city has been recognised by Leeds City Council.

Five former councillors who collectively committed 104 years to representing constituents were unanimously voted honorary aldermen and women of the city by the full council during a ceremony at Civic Hall today.

Among those to be awarded the titles was former Kirkstall ward councillor Bernard Atha CBE, who was praised as a “legend” by all corners of the authority for his 57 years of service.

The 86-year-old, who decided not to stand for re-election in May having first joined the authority in 1957, was lauded for his work promoting the arts and was credited in part for the rise of Opera North, Northern Ballet and Leeds Grand Theatre.

Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of the council, told the meeting: “In 2023 when Leeds becomes the European Capital of Culture we will be able to look back and reflect on the enormous contributions Bernard’s made.”

Mr Atha said: “It brings to an end 57 years association with the council and it evokes many happy memories.”

Former councillors Thomas Murray, Gerard Francis, Brenda Lancaster and Matthew Lobley were also rewarded for their service to Leeds. Former Lord Mayor of Leeds Mr Murray spent 22 years as a councillor largely backing children’s services, Mr Francis served as a stalwart Otley town councillor alongside his city council role, while Mr Lobley served a decade as Roundhay ward member and Ms Lancaster was a Moortown ward councillor for 12 years and had a passion for armed forces remembrance.

Alderman status was traditionally conferred on senior and long-serving members of local authorities. The position was abolished in 1974 following local government reorganisation but councils can still create honorary aldermen to recognise service given by former members.

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