HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to former Mayor of Worcester and freeman of the city Mike Layland who has passed away at the age of 81.
Born and bred in Worcester, the former train driver enjoyed a long association with a number of local causes and was a city councillor for more than four decades
He was first elected to Worcester City Council as a Labour councillor at a by-election in October 1966, representing the old Holy Trinity Ward until 1992.
Holy Trinity is now covered by the Rainbow Hill, Gorse Hill and Nunnery wards and after leaving the Labour party Mike went on to represent the Nunnery Ward as an independent from 1994 to 2012, when he retired.
A civic career spanning more than 44 years saw him appointed as City Chamberlain in 1972/73 and he was the last High Sheriff of Worcester in 1973/74.
Mike was the Mayor of Worcester in 1981/82 and again in 2010/11.
During his first term as Mayor he welcomed Prince Charles to the city, shortly before the latter’s marriage to the late Diana, Princess of Wales in 1981.
Mike spent several years as chairman of the City Council’s Racing Committee and was made an honorary life member of Worcester Racecourse in 1988.
A true gentleman, Mike enjoyed a long association with many other organisations and represented Worcester City Council on a wide range of charities and outside bodies, including Worcester River Sports Committee and the Crematorium and Cemeteries Forum.
He was chairman of Worcester Carnival Committee for 27 years which, at its peak, had more than 100 floats, and was closely involved with Perdiswell Young People’s Leisure Club for many years.
Mike was also a Red Cross volunteer and physical training instructor with the former Worcester Regiment.
He was an honorary member of the Mercian Regiment Voluntary Reserve and an honorary member of the ASLEF trade union.
He was awarded the honorary Freedom of the City of Worcester in October 2014.
City council leader Coun Adrian Gregson expressed his condolences to Mike’s family at his passing.
“He was part of a Labour council that contributed a lot to Worcester’s development as a city especially in terms of the pedestrianisation of the High Street,” he said.
“The fact he was also nominated Mayor twice shows how he was respected across the chamber for his contribution to Worcester,” he added.
Worcester MP Robin Walker said: “This is a terribly sad day for Worcester – the city has lost one of our most dedicated and loyal sons.”
“Mike was a true giant of politics in Worcester, serving the community as a councillor for an incredible 44 years.
“He was also Mayor of the city twice – firstly in 1982, when my father was Member of Parliament for the city, and secondly in 2012 when I worked closely with him as the local MP.”
In 2014, Robin attended a ceremony at the Guildhall granting Mr Layland the Freedom of Worcester in recognition of his years of public service.
A plaque was unveiled in Mr Layland’s honour, putting him alongside Cecil Duckworth DL CBE and Robin’s father, Lord Walker of Worcester.
“Starting as a Labour man and then continuing as a fierce independent, Mike always spoke up passionately for the people he represented,” Mr Walker added.
“There were many issues on which we disagreed, always politely and with reasoned argument, but there were many more on which we agreed.
“Mike was a figure that transcended party politics, and acted as an inspiration and a mentor to a great many people in Worcester politics.
“He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by friends from across the political spectrum and beyond it,” he added.