Lesley Jones MBE dead at 77: Tributes paid to veteran Willesden Green Labour councillor
- Credit: GERARD FARRELL / DZ PICTURES
Thursday’s polls in Willesden Green have been called off following the death of the ward’s longest serving Labour councillor on Monday.
Cllr Lesley Jones MBE had represented her constituents for 20 years and had been due to appear on today’s ballot papers. A by-election will instead be held soon when Labour has chosen a new candidate.
The election across Brent’s 20 other wards will not be affected.
The 77-year-old was made mayor of Brent in March 2015, and chose to spend her year in the chains raising money for Brent Young Carers – she netted £9,359 for the charity.
Just a few months into her new role, she was recognised with an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to local government.
Cllr Jones, who lived in Dollis Hill, had four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Her son, Math Jones, said: “My mother was service minded and was very much [about] what she could do for other people.”
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She was born in Surrey, where her family had been evacuated in the Second World War. On her return to London she grew up in Kentish Town.
The life-long Labour supporter met her husband David in the 1960s and the pair went to teach in Nigeria for three years. After returning to the UK she taught in secondary schools, later becoming an Ofsted inspector.
She found her political place when elected as councillor in 1998.
Math added: “Many many people around her held her in great regard and affection. Local residents put her forward for her MBE and pushed for her to be awarded.
“She was still agile, still driving, still active and keen to be re-elected so she could carry on helping others. We believe she died of natural causes. She was at home and secure when it happened.”
Colleagues at Brent Council paid their respects to a tireless campaigner and valued community member.
Carolyn Downs, Brent Council’s chief exec, said: “It is with great sadness that we received news of the death of Cllr Lesley Jones.
“Her dedication to public life, from her days as a teacher to a local councillor to mayor and first citizen of Brent, was evident for all to see – and so it was only fitting that she was honoured with an MBE in 2015.
“Our thoughts are with her family at this very difficult time.”
Current mayor of Brent Cllr Bhagwanji Chohan added: “Lesley’s death is devastating news and our deepest sympathies go out to her family.
“She was an exceptional public servant and set a wonderful example of how to hold the office of mayor of Brent with the dignity and respect it deserves.
“She will be sorely missed by everyone at the council.”
Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt added: “This is terribly sad news and our hearts go out to Lesley’s family. She served this borough tirelessly since 1998 and never once failed to champion the needs of her residents and her ward. Her legacy will be the standard to which each of us, as elected representatives and community advocates, aspire. She will be missed.”
Cllr Ketan Sheth, who serves Tokyngton ward, said: “Although Lesley hadn’t been keeping well over the recent months, she was a much valued member of my community and wellbeing scrutiny committee.
“She attended almost all the meetings and played a very active part in holding both the cabinet and partner organisations to account.
“Her valued contributions will be much missed.”
Fellow Willesden Green councillor Tom Miller tweeted: “So very sad to hear of the passing of my comrade, ward colleague and partner in crime, Lesley Jones MBE.
“A beatnik in her youth, she was a warm person who took duty seriously – as a ward cllr, a cabinet member, and as mayor. Someone to look up to. Thinking of her family.”
Anne-Marie Morris, chief exec of Brent Young Carers, said: “We will never forget her kindness and commitment in raising the profile of young carers in Brent. She raised funds, networked, and opened doors, which we will always appreciate. She was a catalyst for Brent Carers Centre in highlighting the issues faced by young carers in Brent and bringing about some amazing changes in the borough.
“We are deeply honoured and blessed to have known Cllr Jones. Our board of trustees, staff team and our young carers will miss her dearly.”
If you’d like to pay tribute to Cllr Jones email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the news desk on 020 7433 0134.