Essex County Council opposition leader Tom Smith-Hughes dies

Tom Smith-Hughes
Image caption Mr Smith-Hughes was a county councillor for 27 years

Tributes have been paid to the leader of the opposition at Essex County Council, who has died after a long battle with cancer.

Tom Smith-Hughes, who had been a Liberal Democrat county councillor for Chelmsford North since 1981, died on Wednesday, aged 63.

He was also a Chelmsford Borough councillor for 12 years for the Patching Hall ward.

Mr Smith-Hughes leaves a wife, Jill, and two married daughters.

The deputy Liberal Democrat leader at the county council, Mike Mackrory, said they were "devastated by the news".

"Tom was a pillar of strength to the Lib Dems and indeed the whole community in Chelmsford," he said.

"Even on Monday he was still making sure meetings were being covered and we were progressing some of the issues he had been involved with.

"He was so conscientious and will be sadly missed."

The Conservative chairman of Essex County Council, Rodney Bass, described Mr Smith-Hughes as a "thoroughly decent man".

"Tom was respected and liked by all members of the council," he said.

"He has shown tremendous courage in fighting his recent illness."

Essex County Council said the flag at County Hall in Chelmsford would be flown at half mast until the day of Mr Smith-Hughes' funeral.

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