LONG-TIME local councillor and disability campaigner Barry Thorne has died after several weeks of illness.

During his political career he served on Bradford, Haworth and Keighley councils as well as being the district's Lord Mayor.

He was for many years a leading light of Bradford Disability Sport & Leisure which runs activities for people with learning disabilities.

The group today broke the news of Cllr Thorne's death in a letter to members, saying he had passed away during the night and adding: "Barry has been a huge part of BDSL for a long time and has supported us all in many ways."

Barry was a current member of Keighley Town Council, which today issued a statement on its website expressing "deep sadness" at his passing.

It stated: "Barry has throughout his life worked tirelessly for the town as a councillor in the Keighley Borough before the amalgamation into Bradford.

"He served for 30 years as a councillor, being appointed mayor of the district in 1992-1993, and lately as a town councillor for the Bracken Bank and Ingrow ward of Keighley.

"Many of you will know Barry was a stalwart and activist in support of those who suffer with learning disabilities and a fundraiser for the charity Bradford Disability Sport & Leisure.

"The council and town has lost a champion who will be hard to replace. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family on this sad occasion."

Cllr Thorne, in his early 70s, had a wife Pat and two sons.

He was born in Somerset but has lived in Yorkshire since 1970. He served in the Royal Navy for seven years as a leading radio electrical mechanic, and has been a passionate defender of disabled people’s rights.

His first councillor role was on the now defunct Skipton and Rural District Council, where he was the only Labour Party member. He had been a member of the Labour Party for almost 50 years.

Cllr Thorne was a district councillor for Keighley West ward for 30 years, from 1974 to 2004. He chaired Bradford Council leisure services for 17 years, and oversaw the renovation of the Alhambra Theatre and the development of new swimming pools for Keighley.

He worked closely with the then Conservative Government in the early 1980s to help set up a race relations advisory group in Bradford. And he was Bradford Lord Mayor in 1992/93.

Cllr Thorne was a member of Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury Parish Council for eight years, stepping down in 2015 and later joining Keighley Town Council.

Cllr Ralph Berry tweeted a tribute to Cllr Thorne.

He said: "Very sad to hear if the passing of former Bradford District Mayor Barry Thorne. A real innovator and fighter for equality and a real wit.

"He was champion of local democracy and Keighley. He leaves a great legacy of hope."