TRIBUTES have been paid to much-admired former councillor Valerie Binney, who has died at the age of 75.
For 40 years, former Conservative Party agent Mrs Binney was at the heart of politics in Bradford - and she spent 19 of those years as a Conservative councillor for Thornton and Allerton.
Described by her peers as courageous and formidable, Mrs Binney passed away peacefully at Manorlands Hospice in Oxenhope early yesterday with her daughter by her side.
She had been suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, a degenerative muscle-wasting condition which robbed her of her ability to speak and walk, since 2012, yet continued to champion the causes of the district's residents.
Close friend and fellow Tory, Cllr Jackie Whiteley, told how Mrs Binney had attended last weekend's Bingley Show, despite being seriously ill.
"She still wanted to go to Bingley Show, " said Cllr Whiteley. "She was fighting it to the end."
Cllr Whiteley added: "She was a woman of courage, how she dealt with this devastating illness. She was just amazing, a lovely, lovely lady who was committed to public service.
"She was totally well-respected everywhere. She will be a sad loss as a friend of mine, and to the community of Bradford."
Earlier this year Mrs Binney, who was Lord Mayor of Bradford from 2005 to 2006, received the Jane Tomlinson Award for Courage at the annual Yorkshire Women of Achievement awards, and the winner-of-winners prize at the end of the ceremony.
Cllr Glen Miller, leader of the Conservative group in Bradford, said: "It is very sad news. Valerie Binney continued to champion the causes of residents of this district right up to a few days before her death. It is a sad day for Bradford."
Bradford Council leader Cllr David Green (Lab) said: "I think everybody who got to meet and know Valerie Binney recognised that she was passionate about representing and doing the best for the people she represented, and the best for this district.
"Whilst we did have differences in political views, I think that her passion and her absolute commitment to the people of Thornton and the people of Bradford shone through in everything that she did.
"She will be much missed by everyone who came across her either through political interaction or personally."
Cllr Jeanette Sunderland, leader of Bradford Liberal Democrats, said: "The thing I remember about Valerie was when she was Lord Mayor, in the year of the London bombings, and provided leadership to the city in a still and quiet way, which was very powerful in a time of great struggle.
"That was the thing that stood out the most."
Labour's Cllr Ralph Berry tweeted: "Sorry to hear of the passing of former Tory Cllr Valerie Binney, a formidable Tory agent in Bradford West in the 80s and 90s."
A spokesman for the Bradford Conservatives said: "Val touched a lot of people in Bradford but for us she will be remembered as the epitome of Bradford Conservatism – spirited and feisty, decent with a sense of fun and, above all, caring for the City and District of Bradford and all its communities."
Keighley and Ilkley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins said Mrs Binney cared deeply about Bradford, and added: "Politicians come and come and go but Valerie’s contribution to public life in Bradford will be remembered for many years to come."
Mrs Binney, a former student of Whetley Secondary School and Bradford College, leaves behind a daughter, son and sister.