TRIBUTES have been paid to Roger Hollingworth, the former leader of Bromsgrove District Council, who died suddenly on Saturday (January 30) at the age of 71.
Mr Hollingworth held the seat on the Alvechurch ward of the council from 2003 to 2015 and stood down at the last election to spend more time with his family.
After being responsible for the environment and finance on the council, he took over as leader in 2005.
In that role he helped raise the ailing authority from its ‘voluntary engagement’ after it was labelled by the local government minister as ‘the worst performing council he had ever seen’.
By the time he left, Bromsgrove District Council was on a sustainable footing.
Coun June Griffiths, who also represented Alvechurch when Mr Hollingworth was in office and still does, said: “This has come as a great shock – he has left a hole that will never be filled.
“We were very very close friends – he was my mentor and counsellor.
“It began when he was chairman of the parish and I was on the district council. From that moment we worked together so well.
“I spoke to him on Saturday morning and he was busying himself and getting on with life.
“Lately he has done a lot of work for the young people in Alvechurch.
“Overall, he did so much for Bromsgrove and Bromsgrove is better for the work he did.
“When we had problems with the wheelie bins, he was portfolio holder for the environment and got it sorted.
“When the council had monetary problems, he was head of finance and later the leader and got them sorted.
“He has put Bromsgrove on the right pathway to becoming an excellent council.”
Bromsgrove District Council leader Margaret Sherrey and portfolio holder for finance Geoff Denaro were both deputy leaders under Mr Hollingworth.
In a joint statement, they said: “We were both devastated by his sudden death.
“Roger was unique in his ability to head on the problems he found on joining the council and subsequently transformed its performance over many years. He will be sadly missed.”
Coun Peter McDonald had some memorable duels with Mr Hollingworth in the council chamber when he was leader of Bromsgrove Labour Group, but the pair also worked well together cross-party when the need arose.
Coun McDonald said: “We had our battles but we worked closely together to keep the sovereignty of Bromsgrove District Council.
“We kept control of the council out of the hands of the Government which was the main aim.
“And, despite our differences in political opinion, as a councillor he did work hard for his community.”
Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of Roger’s death.
“I knew Roger to be an outstanding champion for this community, both as a former leader of Bromsgrove District Council and at home in Alvechurch.
“Roger was brilliantly practical and had a fantastic sense of humour.
“He was very much respected and will be sorely missed.
“My thoughts are with his wife Jacqui and their family at this sad time.”
Mr Hollingworth, in his role as leader, also worked with the Bromsgrove Muslim Community Trust (BMCT), on community events.
Waqar Azmi, the chairman of the BMCT, said: “He was not only a brave and brilliant council leader who had integrity, selflessness and honesty but also an amazing human being – kind, loyal and deeply generous man.
“These are qualities quite rare these days.
“He was a genuine public official and one of the most hardworking and dedicated I’ve ever come across.
“We should mourn with his family and give thanks for all he gave our town.”
Mr Hollingworth is survived by his mum, wife Jacqueline, children James, Mark and Sarah and two grandchildren.
A statement from the family read: “Roger was a very much-loved husband, father and grandad.
“He was a dedicated family man who also found time for others who needed his help and we have been overwhelmed by the kind words and wishes of those who worked with him, and those he worked for, in the local community.”
Details of the funeral are yet to be announced.