WARM tributes have been paid to a man who worked ‘tirelessly’ for the benefit of Otley.

Honorary Leeds Alderman Gerard Francis, who served three terms as Town Mayor of Otley, died last week following a short illness. He was 74.

Mr Francis was involved in the civic life of the town for many decades and was one of the last surviving members of the old Otley Urban District Council.

He was elected to Otley Town Council at its inception and served, with some gaps, right up until 2011. He also became the first town councillor to have held the position of Town Mayor on three separate occasions, taking on the role in 1975-1976, 2002-2003 and 2009-2010.

Mr Francis also served on Leeds City Council from 1974 to 1980 and again in 2003-4. And in 2014 he was made an Honorary Alderman - a title he was honoured to receive.

He was instrumental in securing the new library for Otley and also fought hard to preserve the green spaces around the town while, as Chair of the South East Otley Residents Association, he strongly opposed the development of houses and industry in that area.

Working alongside his brother Nigel, late Councillor Clive Fox and Peter Young he also campaigned for the re-opening of Piggy Lane and various public footpaths in and around the Cambridge estate.

Mr Francis’ contribution to the town, however, extended beyond the realm of politics.

His brother, Town Councillor Nigel Francis, said: “Gerard was a hardworking member of the community who enjoyed working for the good of Otley across party lines and for the benefit of everyone. He will be sadly missed by many.

“He was well known for supporting organisations in the town and worked for many years with the Otley Carnival Committee and was a member of the Otley Town Team Volunteers. He also worked on every Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza, both as a steward and in the Secretary’s caravan.

“Gerard was also a co-opted Governor at both Ashfield School and The Whartons School, where his duties included listening to the children read.

“He was Secretary of the Conservative Club for many years and served on many other organisations in the Otley and Leeds area, including the Otley and District Road Safety Committee.

“Gerard worked as a civil servant in the Leeds area for many years and after redundancy worked at the Colin Pitt, Leeds Road Garage in Otley, taking retirement in 2019 when the garage closed down.”

Otley and Yeadon ward Councillor Colin Campbell said: “Gerard was a lifelong Conservative whose commitment to the town and people of Otley was absolute and he was prepared to set aside political differences while working tirelessly for the benefit of the wider community.

“He had a quiet unassuming manner and I would describe him as a gentleman in the old fashioned sense of the word. Though a political opponent, I counted Gerard as a friend and as such I, along with the wider community, will miss him.”

Fellow Liberal Democrat ward Councillor Sandy Lay added: “I first met and got to know Gerard following my election to the town council in 2011 when, unfortunately, I succeeded him as one of the four town councillors for Danefield ward.

“Since then I would once or twice a year catch up with him for a coffee and cake. I always found him courteous, polite and willing to listen as we put aside our clear differences politically to discuss what more we could do to improve our town.

“Whether he was a city or town councillor Gerard always served this town with distinction and I shall miss him. Thank you for your service Gerard, and may you rest in peace.”