Book of condolences opened for Jeremy Birch

Jeremy Birch at last year's borough council elections
Jeremy Birch at last year's borough council elections

A flag bearing the Hastings coat of arms is being flown at half mast from Hastings town hall as a mark of respect to leader Jeremy Birch.

A book of condolence has also been opened following the death of Cllr Birch yesterday and is available in the community contact centre in Hastings town hall.

One minute’s silence will be held during the election count at Horntye Park tonight.

Paying tribute to Cllr Birch, Hastings Borough Council deputy leader Peter Chowney said: “It was with enormous sadness that I learned of the death of Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Council, yesterday afternoon.

“It was sudden and unexpected, and my thoughts are with his partner Louise and his family at this terrible time.

“Jeremy had been leader of Hastings Council for 15 years – I’d been his deputy for just two years.

“His dedication to Hastings was unquestionable, having been born and bred here (something he occasionally reminded me of, me being a ‘DFL’ of just 18 years residency), and had devoted his life to the regeneration of our borough, and to making Hastings and St Leonards a better place.

“He was well known and respected, not just in East Sussex, but throughout the region, and was instrumental in getting a big share of whatever regional and national resources were on offer, largely down to his persuasive intellect, absolute dedication, and unswerving devotion to the place he was born in.

“In public, he was an astonishing orator, and showed all the qualities a leader should.

“In private, he was witty and entertaining, with a succinct and precise sense of humour that I certainly appreciated.

“It’s so hard to realise that I’m not going to experience that again: the witticisms, the incisive explanations, and yes, the arguments – but always constructive ones.

“But as well as the council leader, he was most importantly a personal friend and comrade.

“I can’t believe he’s gone, and it makes me so sad to be writing this.

“So, goodbye Jeremy – you were a worthy son of Hastings, a tireless fighter for what was right and good, and a true socialist.

“We’ll never forget you.”

Mayor of Hastings Bruce Dowling said: “I have known Jeremy as much as a friend as a fellow councillor and am personally devastated at his passing.

“Like me he was Hastings born and bred, and proud of it. And he was passionate about this town.

“I know tributes have already been paid from members of all political parties; everyone recognised that what he did he did for the best of Hastings.

“He was larger than life in every respect, and our meetings, Hastings Borough Council, and Hastings the town, will not be the same.

“We have lost a real friend.”

Breaking news: Council leader Jeremy Birch passes away

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