Tributes to Sir Simon Milton - a real man of action

Westminster remembers its former leader who died last month

AN EMOTIONAL tribute to Westminster Council’s former leader Sir Simon Milton was paid by councillors across the political spectrum at the first full council meeting since his death on Thursday.

Leading the tributes to the highly-respected politician, who passed away last month after a short illness at the age of 49, current leader Cllr Colin Barrow described him as a “good friend” who “was loved as well as admired and respected”.

He said: “Simon saw that with good leadership you could improve the environment, bring communities together, bring order to the streets and renew the fabric of the city. You could make Westminster a much better place to be.

“He had a huge impact on our national life, on London, on Westminster and on this organisation. I shall remember his kindness, his courtesy, his intellect, his effectiveness and his calmness. These are not qualities always found in politicians and almost never all in one person.

“These qualities made Sir Simon Milton one of the best political leaders of his generation and enabled him to achieve more in his short time with us than the rest of us could aspire to in three lifetimes.”

Sir Simon served a record eight years as leader of Westminster Council and was knighted for services to local government in 2006.

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In 2007 he was elected chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), the national voice of local authorities and was most recently chief of staff to London Mayor Boris Johnson as well as Deputy Mayor for planning.

Education boss Cllr Nickie Aiken said: “For too long the improvement of Westminster’s schools had taken a back seat until Simon as leader understood how education is a way out of poverty. He believed that every child no matter what their economic background deserved the best start in life.”

She continued: “This evening I pay homage to his parents and to the upbringing he enjoyed as it made him the man he was.

“I would also like to recognise Simon’s sister, Lisa, who with her gift of bone marrow gave him 12 years on this earth which perhaps he may not have had.

“On behalf of Westminster pupils, parents, teachers and the officers I pay tribute to the outstanding support and guidance Sir Simon Milton provided for education in this great borough of ours.”

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the opposition, also joined the tributes. He said: “Sir Simon was an example to all politicians of how to get things done in difficult times. London will be a poorer place without his hand on the tiller at City Hall. I offer my deepest condolences at this sad time.”

Deputy leader of the council and Sir Simon’s partner of 23 years, Cllr Robert Davis, ended the tributes by saying he was “touched” by the words of his colleagues and by the tributes that had appeared in much of the media. He added that Sir Simon’s passing would be “a loss to everyone”.

Sir Simon was diagnosed with leukaemia in 1990 and in 1998 underwent a bone-marrow transplant, using cells provided by his sister.

As a result of this procedure his immune system was weakened, leading to a bout of pneumonia which seriously damaged his lungs. His health had been a problem ever since.