UPDATED: Ex-mayor dies from cancer, aged 58
Former Blackpool mayor Eddie Collett has died from cancer.
Tyldesley ward councillor Eddie Collett died in the early hours of Monday morning. He was 58 and had been ill for some months.
A string of council colleagues and friends lined up to hail Coun Collett’s contribution to Blackpool’s community and to speak of the qualities which made him so well loved.
Mr Collett, who was a lecturer at Blackpool and The Fylde College, was mayor in 2013/14 and held a string of important cabinet roles in the Town Hall.
He leaves wife Heather, son David, daughter Sian and grandson Henry.
Council leader Simon Blackburn said: “Although it has been clear for several weeks that Eddie was not going to recover, it is still very hard to believe that he has gone.
“His service to the town is unparalleled – he served as Deputy Leader of the Council, cabinet member for tourism and regeneration, education, community safety, public health, and most recently children’s services.
“Far more than that though, he was a loyal and dependable friend, and a great battler for those whose voices seldom get heard.
“He loved his family dearly, and they were uppermost in his thoughts during his final days. I shall miss him more than words can say.”
Coun David Owen, who chose Mr Collett to be his deputy when he was mayor in 1975-76, was deputy mayor to Mr Collett in 2013-14 and a fellow Blackpool FC fan, said he would be impossible to replace.
He said: “I went to see him on Saturday afternoon after the Blackpool versus Blackburn game to deliver a report. He held my hand.
“We have been going to watch Blackpool together for 20 years and more.
“He was much respected. He liked people and people liked Eddie. He was never one to seek the limelight, he was more concerned to make things happen behind the scenes.
“He had a ready wit and great powers of persuasion. People respected his opinion and judgement. He was striking in his physical bearing, always with a ready smile, the ability not to take himself too seriously, but a serious person in his political thought and concern for his community.
“I respected him as a man who contributed much for education in Blackpool as the responsible Executive Councillor. He was for many years chairman of governors at Waterloo School.
“The idea of all councillors having an annual budget to spend in their wards was his idea as were the alley gates - ‘Eddiegates’ we learnt to call them.
“His loss is going to make a lot of difference to my life and I know to many others. He will be impossible to replace. I am glad his horrible days of suffering are over.
“For the rest of us, the sadness begins. All my thoughts today are for Heather for David and for Sian.”
Coun Collett’s ward and Labour group colleague Coun Alan Matthews said: “I was with Eddie before he died. It is so very sad. We were members of the Labour party together for almost 30 years and fought election after election together.
“He was a very good councillor, a dedicated socialist, he treated everyone the same and treated them fairly.
“Eddie loved his music, especially heavy rock and he loved gardening. He will be deeply missed by all.”
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “He was at the heart of the Labour party in Blackpool for more than 25 years and I was proud to be able to call him my colleague and friend.
“He was a leading factor in the major regeneration and achievements when Labour took office from 1991 right through to the mid 2000s and deserves credit along with the rest of that team for much of the improvements we see in Blackpool toady.
“Eddie was unflappable and had a bright sense of humour a great and open hearted mayor of Blackpool.
“We will all miss him. He has borne his recent illness with huge dignity and courage as has his family.
“My thoughts and prayers are with them at this moment.”
Leader of the Conservatives, Coun Tony Williams, said: “All our thoughts are with his family and friends.
“He was a very fair minded and always could appreciate both side of the coin. Eddie was a pleasure always to work with.
“It is such a tragedy.”