Tributes to an ‘inspirational’ ex-councillor

Maurice Skilton
Maurice Skilton

POPULAR Liberal Democrat campaigner and former councillor Maurice Skilton died this week.

The much-loved politician, pictured right, was 90. He died on Monday evening and the Borough Flag has been flying at half mast at Eastbourne Town Hall in tribute.

Tributes have poured in to an 'inspiration' and great friend and while his funeral will be a private affair for family and close friends only, there will be a civic memorial service for people to pay their respects later in the summer.

Mr Skilton, known as Smiler, was brought up in Old Town and had a son and a daughter. He was also a grandfather and great grandfather.

He first became a councillor in 1961 for the former County Borough of Eastbourne and was elected to the newly-formed borough council in 1973. He served until 2006 with just one year break in that time.

He was mayor in 1991/92 and again in 1992/93 and deputy mayor in 1974/75 and 1990/91.

He also served as leader of the council for the four years between 1984 and 1988.

Mr Skilton was also an East Sussex county councillor from 1974 to 1977 and between 1985 and 2009.

He was vice chairman of the county council in 1996/97 and chairman from 1998 to 2000.

He was awarded the MBE in the 1998 New Year’s Honours’ List for services to the community in East Sussex and honoured with the Freedom of the Borough of Eastbourne at a special ceremony at the Town Hall in 2008.

The honour was awarded to recognise the outstanding contribution he made to Eastbourne and its community for more than 45 years, including serving as a councillor for the Old Town ward on both the borough and county councils.

He had a lead role in significant developments and events such as Eastbourne Park, the annual Horse Show, and the International Children’s Conference, the latter in partnership with UNICEF and first held in 1995 in Eastbourne.

He had also worked with many local voluntary and charitable groups including the Old Town Library, Beachy Head Countryside Centre and Open Door.

Eastbourne Borough Council leader and fellow Liberal Democrat David Tutt said Maurice had been an inspiration to a generation of young people to become involved in politics.

He said, “He was also passionate in his campaigns for the young, elderly and disadvantaged and protecting the Downland.

“He managed to inject a real sense of humour and you never saw him without a smile on his face.”

Langney councillor Alan Shuttleworth said, "Maurice was the inspiration for me and a generation of Young Liberals to get involved in the lifeblood of Eastbourne.

“He was a kind man with a wonderful sense of humour and fun.

"Maurice was a loveable rebel but he was also a great leader who made a real contribution to Eastbourne, but he will be remembered by all who knew him as someone who was always smiling.

“To the end he spoke passionately about Eastbourne, and is simply irreplaceable - a one-off.”

Former Conservative councillor Aubrey Vickers said he was saddened to hear of Mr Skilton's death.

“We were on the council together for a long time and enjoyed each other’s company,” said Mr Vickers.

“He was a real character and will be missed.”