Essex County Council and Chelmsford Borough Council are sad to announce the death yesterday (18 April) of Councillor Tom Smith-Hughes after a long and brave battle against cancer.
Councillor Smith-Hughes was Leader of the Liberal Democrat group and Member for Chelmsford North for the County Council and had been a Member for 27 years. He had also served as Cabinet Member for Finance at Chelmsford Borough Council and was elected Member for Patching Hall in 1999. As well as being a member of the Fire Authority he held many community positions including school governor posts.
During his time at the County Council he served on a number of Committees including most recently chairing the Audit Committee and the Executive Scrutiny Committee. He was also Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at the Borough Council.
Leading the tributes Councillor Mike Mackrory, Deputy Liberal Democrats Leader at Essex County Council said: "We are devastated by this news. Tom was a pillar of strength to the Essex Liberal Democrats and indeed the whole community in Chelmsford. His great strength was his mastery of local government finance. He was highly respected by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts are with Jill and the family at this deeply sad time."
Chairman of the County Council, Councillor Rodney Bass, also paid tribute to Councillor Smith-Hughes: "Tom was a thoroughly decent man and he will be sadly missed. I got to know him very well through our shared interest in finance and the pension fund.
"He was a formidable analyser and debater on all matters of a financial nature and yet he was always generous in his outlook and approach to political issues and people.
"Tom was respected and liked by all Members of the Council. He has shown tremendous courage in fighting his recent illness. We mourn his passing and send our condolences to his wife and family."
Leader of Essex County Council, Peter Martin, said: “Tom was a great servant to the county of Essex, both as a County Councillor and a Borough Councillor. He was a real gentleman and everybody at County Hall – on all political sides – held him in the highest regard. Despite our political differences, I regarded him as a friend. He will be sorely missed.”
Leader of Chelmsford Borough Council, Councillor Roy Whitehead said: “It is sad news to hear of Tom’s death after his terrific fight against cancer. He was working as hard as ever right up until a few weeks ago and his contribution to both Chelmsford Borough Council and Essex County Council has been enormous. While we were on opposite sides of the political spectrum I have worked with Tom for many years, particularly on financial matters where his expertise will be sorely missed.”
Councillor Anthony Hedley, Chair of the Fire Authority, said: “Tom was a valued and well respected long serving member of the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service who will be greatly missed. His expertise in finance helped shape and inform the Authorities resource management, ensuring that our front line service would remain a priority even in the face of the current economic downturn. On a personal level I will miss Tom as a friend and colleague, and someone whose advice and help I greatly appreciated.”
The flag at County Hall will fly at half-mast and the flag at Chelmsford Civic Centre will fly at half-mast on the day of the funeral as a mark of respect.