Councillors bidding fond farewell after years of community service

Morpeth Herald competition winner Derek Thompson.
Morpeth Herald competition winner Derek Thompson.

SEVERAL Morpeth councillors have decided to bow out of their roles.

Five town councillors, along with county member for Morpeth North David Moore, have called time on their years of service for various reasons.

The longest-serving, Derek Thompson, has decided to retire from public office after 16 years.

The 74-year-old has enjoyed serving on both Morpeth Town Council and the former Castle Morpeth Borough Council, representing Stobhill.

He added the role to a CV that included jobs as a miner, carpenter, draughtsman, technology teacher and headteacher.

During his service he spent two years each as Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the town council, while on the borough authority he held positions as Chairman of the Housing and Internal Audit Committees.

The Labour member was also Deputy Mayor for the borough, before becoming Mayor in 2003 when his late wife Barbara Ruth supported him as Mayoress.

Coun Thompson said: “I had a wonderful time as Mayor, but it was also tragic because during that time my wife was very ill and she died three weeks before my term as Mayor expired. She enjoyed being Mayoress, but it was a bitter sweet time.

“There have been many good times on the councils. It was during my time as Chairman when the town council became recognised as a Quality Council. That confirmed we were doing a good job and the town council really came of age. Now it is recognised as one of the best town councils in the country.

“We saw the importance of the town council growing during that period and it was involved in almost every aspect of town life.

“Morpeth has recently been named as one of the five best towns in the country to raise a family, which is quite an achievement. I think the town council has been a big part of that.”

Coun Thompson, who has never claimed councillor allowances, has seen ups and downs over the years, but he looks back with overall fondness.

He said: “On the borough council we were all desperately disappointed when it was done away with to be replaced by the unitary. I was there when the financial crisis was going on and the council was threatened with being run by a Government Commission because it was in such a mess. It was a difficult time, but the council turned around and it had a lot of good points.

“It created a good sense of community in the area, from Heddon On The Wall to Hadston and out to Cambo. People felt very much part of that council area and when I was Mayor it was a great privilege to be part of it.

“It is a wonderful area, with wonderful people. The people of this area are more than just a bit special.”

Coun Thompson will continue to serve as a Governor of the Freeman and RVI hospitals in Newcastle, as well as Chairman of the Hollon Trust.

Fellow town councillor Jo Tantawy is stepping down after 10 years due to work and family commitments, and her Liberal Democrat colleague Ed Hillier, who was elected last year, has decided not to stand for the same reason.

Coun Jean Yannakoyorgou, also a Liberal Democrat, has signed off after seven years due to ill health.

“I really enjoyed my time on the town council, but since my illness I have slowed down somewhat so that is the reason why I’m not standing. I will miss it though,” she said.

And former Morpeth Mayor Phil Taylor, also a Liberal Democrat, is not standing as he is considering moving out of the town.

He said: “I have really enjoyed it on the council. It is a very worthwhile role and it has meant I got involved with a lot of things I wouldn’t normally do. I have had a good time, especially with being Mayor.”