EMOTIONAL tributes have been paid to a former council leader described as a ‘tireless champion’ for Warrington at the Town Hall.

Labour’s Burtonwood and Winwick borough councillor Terry O’Neill passed away last Sunday, aged 72, after a short illness.

He started his political career as a parish councillor in 1983 and became a borough councillor in 1991.

The politician formally retired from his role as leader in December last year – around seven years after taking on the post.

The dad-of-two described being leader in his hometown as the ‘best job in the world’.

Tributes were paid during Monday’s full council meeting at the Town Hall.

Council leader Cllr Russ Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) said Mr O’Neill served as leader with ‘absolute pride’ and labelled him as a ‘dedicated public servant’.

“He will be a great loss to the council and this town and, more specifically, to his family,” he said.

“I did feel absolutely railroaded last Monday when I got the news.

“I have spoken to his family, they appreciate the level of support they’ve had from council officers and from councillors in this chamber.

“He was determined that Time Square was going to come forward, in terms of having an offer that was going to change the dynamics of our town centre, making it a family-oriented place once again.”

Cllr Mike Hannon, who served as deputy leader during part of Mr O’Neill’s term as leader, also shared his thoughts.

He said: “Terry has gone but the legacy he leaves will go on for many years to come.”

Cllr Kath Buckley (CON – Lymm South) said she found Mr O’Neill to be ‘especially kind and incredibly supportive’.

And Cllr Tony Higgins (LAB – Fairfield and Howley) said Mr O’Neill was ‘a person who stayed loyal to his friends’ and that his personal gratitude is something which ‘will always stay’ with him.

He added: “Loyalty in politics is a rare commodity.”

Cllr Bob Barr (LD – Lymm North and Thelwall), leader of the town’s Liberal Democrats, described Mr O’Neill as a ‘Warringtonian through and through’, as well as a ‘tireless champion’ for the town.

He said: “It was sad to see Terry become frailer in the last year or so but he would have been proud having continued to serve the town he loved until the end.”