By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
A FORMER Tory councillor who served Tameside for four decades has been recognised with a top civic honour.
John Bell, who represented Hyde Werneth for 41 years as an elected representative, has been made the borough’s ninth honorary alderman.
The long-serving former councillor from Gee Cross was first elected in 1975, when the metropolitan borough was barely a year old.
During the next four decades, in which he went in and out of office twice, he served in the chamber alongside every single council leader, chief executive and mayor.
He was handed the prestigious honour at a ceremonial meeting of the full council in Dukinfield for the ‘eminent services’ he rendered while at the town hall.
While the award does not convey with it any legal rights or responsibilities, honorary aldermen and alderwomen support the office of mayor and are invited to attend civic ceremonial events.
Mr Bell said it was an “emotional” event for him to receive the honour.
“Tameside – till the day I die, I want to see this borough go from strength to strength,” he said.
“That is why I went in for the job right from 1975, and I’ve seen how we have developed as a borough in that time.
“It’s a real honour to be a councillor and I’d like to thank you all for this great honour. It’s very humbling to me.”
Being a councillor was a “fantastic opportunity like no other”, he said, which had allowed him to meet royalty and the poorest in society.
Many of his opposition had become his friends, and one of his highlights on the town hall was when he served with Labour’s Cllr Brian Wild as deputy mayor.
His alderman nomination was moved by council leader Brenda Warrington, who told members his record on the council was “unmatched”.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that John’s influence on the borough stretches back in time to almost its very creation.
“There are few people in Tameside’s history who can match John’s contribution both inside and outside the council.”
She said he led the Conservative group for more than 20 years, “passionately and eloquently” arguing his case.
He chaired numerous committees, including finance, youth, health scrutiny and human resources.
Mr Bell also served on external bodies, such as the Greater Manchester Police Authority and deputy chair of the combined authority scrutiny committee.
He was a member of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority for two decades.
Locally, he worked in Hyde supporting community assets, such as Gee Cross Community Centre and Werneth Low Country Park and was a member of the Hyde War Memorial Trust.
New Tory group leader Cllr Doreen Dickinson seconded the nomination.
“He truly deserves this recognition of his service which he has given diligently, proudly, and with great integrity,” she said.
“He has spent nearly all his working life looking after residents and giving of himself to Tameside and his party.”
Clrr Brian Wild said they were the first cross-party Mayoral team when he picked John Bell as his deputy, which “didn’t go down too well” with colleagues on both sides of the chamber.
He added: “It was Tameside’s loss that you were never the Mayor.”
Mr Bell has now become a trained volunteer teaching key stage two children about safety, from cyber bullying to road safety.
He also volunteers in the A&E department at Tameside Hospital.