By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter
Tributes have poured in for Hammersmith and Fulham’s longest serving councillor who has died unexpectedly.
Colin Aherne’s death after a heart attack triggers a by-election in the White City and Wormholt ward.
The 77-year-old served as a councillor for 35 years, or nine terms, and planned to run again in next year’s council elections.
The by-election could be held as early as this autumn following his death at Hammersmith Hospital on July 11.
Hammersmith and Fulham council suspended its usual business to dedicate its full council meeting on July 14 to pay tribute to a “great friend and support”.
Council leader Stephen Cowan said: “The immense shock people feel across the council is in part because Colin remained a bold, vital, and cherished part of our lives right up until the end.”
He said of his friend: “[He] was particularly proud to live in Shepherds Bush and to represent the people of his ward, which he did with care for 35 years. He would often characterise his assiduousness by explaining ‘I’m a belt and braces man’, something he applied to his constituents’ case work.”
Cllr Aherne was the Labour chief whip and served on the planning and licensing committees for 35 years.
Cllr Cowan described how a doctor at the hospital said: “Of course Colin you can do this, he’s one of the team that saved Charing Cross Hospital.
“All the doctors said ‘Thank you’. They were some of the last words he heard.”
The council joined campaigners in a successful battle to prevent plans to down grade the A&E department at the hospital in Fulham.
Mr Cowan said his friend was “such a kind gentleman. He was Labour to his core.”
Councillor Aherne grew up in Tredegar in South Wales and later joined the Army. He spent his 18th birthday in Borneo.
The council’s opposition leader Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler said: “His knowledge of the borough was profound and his considered opinion was always worth listening to.”
She added: “He served his ward half his adult life. This is an extraordinary example of dedication to public life.”
Sue McMillan who represents the same ward as Cllr Aherne said: “He was one of the kindest, sweetest, most caring and optimistic men I’ve ever met.”
Cllr Aherne was a governor at Wormholt Park Primary School – and spent 30 years as chairman.
Head teacher Anika Hargie said: “He always fought our corner. He touched the hearts and transformed the lives of so many at our school.”
And the council’s chief executive Kim Dero said: “He relished getting things right, doing things properly and doing things well.”
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