Tributes paid to Brent councillor Alec Castle who has died at the age of 66

Politican served two different wards in the borough for two different parties

Politicians in Brent have been paying tribute to a Dollis Hill councillor who died last week.

Alec Castle, 66, who was suffering with cancer, spent nine-and-a-half years representing residents in two wards.

First elected in May 1998 he served until May 2002 before he was elected again in May 2006 and re-elected in May 2010 for the Dollis Hill ward.

He began his political career in the Labour movement and spent time as a union official representing his colleagues.

He was active in the political upheavals of the 1960s and was one of the Vietnam War protestors present at the 1968 Battle of Grosvenor Square outside the US Embassy, something he recalled with great pride in later life.

In 1998 he was elected as a Labour councillor for Tokyngton ward, serving for four years.

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Mr Castle’s break with the Labour party came when the Labour government in 2003 backed American President George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

He joined the Liberal Democrats and very quickly became active in local campaigning before being elected for a second term as councillor for Dollis Hill in May 2006.

He served as chairman of the Willesden Area Consultative Forum and on the Brent Housing Partnership Board between 2006 and 2010 and was a member of the council’s Executive for a year.

Cllr Jack Beck, Dollis Hill ward colleague and Liberal Democrat Whip, said: “Alec was a man of great conviction and also great warmth. He will be very much missed not only by his colleagues but by many other people in Brent and beyond whom he helped and supported.”

Mr Castle concentrated particularly on improving housing support for vulnerable people.

Until his illness he was a key member of the campaign against the Brent Cross Cricklewood development proposals.

Away from local politics he was passionate about Africa and he visited the continent regularly.

He spent over a year in Nigeria helping to set up an IT system for a local school and in recent years he established a new non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Kenya.

Professionally, Mr Castle gained a PhD in biochemistry and in later years lectured in information technology.

He endured increasing medical problems with stoicism and strength, enduring numerous operations to tackle his cancer which affected his speech and his mobility.

Despite this he attended council meetings until very recently and took an active interest in issues until the end.

Although unable to attend meetings in person after Christmas he continued to communicate with colleagues and the council by email from home.

Cllr Javaid Ashraf added: “I first got to know Alec when as my ward councillor he helped to form the Pinemartin Close Residents’ Association. I joined him as a councillor in 2010, and feel great sadness at the loss of a great councillor, colleague, and personal friend.”

Sarah Teather, Brent Central MP, added: “Alec was a good man and an excellent councillor. He was someone who had a real commitment to improving his community whether in his ward or through his voluntary work in Africa.

“When I think of him one of my abiding memories will always be our canvassing sessions when we would lose him because he would stop and talk to people for so long.

“We would always have to send search parties back to find him and fish him off the doorstep. His loss will be felt deeply by all who knew and worked with him.”