Tributes to former South Ribble Mayor and Leyland councillor Graham Walton

Coun Graham Walton visiting the Royal Mail sorting office in Braconash Road, Leyland in his mayoral year (JPIMedia)
Coun Graham Walton visiting the Royal Mail sorting office in Braconash Road, Leyland in his mayoral year (JPIMedia)
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Tributes have been paid to a long serving Leyland councillor and former South Ribble Council mayor who has died.

Coun Graham Walton, who represented Farington West just north of Leyland, died yesterday.

Graham Walton opens Leyland Festival in 2015 (JPIMedia)

Graham Walton opens Leyland Festival in 2015 (JPIMedia)

The councillor of 12 years, who was a member of the Ribble Valley Conservative Association, served as Mayor of South Ribble in 2014 and 2015 as part of his more-than-a-decade stint in public service.

Nigel Evans, MP for Ribble Valley, said: “Graham was a true fighter for he what he believed in and alongside his wife, Karen, was utterly committed to local politics in South Ribble.

"He was a true friend and gave me massive support at a time when I felt low.

"Coun Walton’s passing is a great loss his constituents, his wife Karen, and to South Ribble Council.”

2014: The annual Mayoral Christmas visit to staff and patients at St Catherine's Hospice. Mayor and Mayoress of South Ribble, Coun Graham Walton, and his wife Karen with Clare Carter (JPIMedia)

2014: The annual Mayoral Christmas visit to staff and patients at St Catherine's Hospice. Mayor and Mayoress of South Ribble, Coun Graham Walton, and his wife Karen with Clare Carter (JPIMedia)

Ken Hind, former MP for West Lancashire, paid tribute to Graham saying he will be "greatly missed".

Coun Hind, who currently sits on Ribble Valley Council representing Dilworth ward in Longridge, said: "He was a very good councillor and a diligent Conservative.

"He worked very hard for his ward and we hugely respected him.

"It's sad that this happened while he was campaign to be a councillor for the next four years.

"We were all very upset about it but we will carry on campaigning because Graham would have wanted us to do that.

"He will be greatly missed."

Taking to social media South Ribble Labour Coun Matthew Tomlinson, who represents Leyland, said: "Shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Coun Graham Walton.

"Although we were in opposing parties, Graham was never anything but friendly towards me.

"He was an outstanding Mayor of the Borough. My sympathies to Karen and their family."

Leader of South Ribble Council's Labour Group, Coun Paul Foster, echoed Coun Tomlinson, tweeting: "Truly terrible news.

"Graham was a thoroughly decent man. We often disagreed on policy, but always with a smile.

"May he rest in peace and our thoughts are with Karen and his family."

The news of Graham's death comes a week before the May 2 local elections in the borough, which would have seen Mr Walton defend his Farington West seat.

The second seat in the ward is held by Graham's wife, Coun Karen Walton.

The Post understands that both seats in the ward will be null and void in the elections, with both seats to be contested at a later date.

Graham, a former roofer, was a father of three who also played for Preston North End as a youngster.

Last week Coun Walton, a former South Ribble Council Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Streetscene, spoke to the Post about the community efforts to bring Farington Lodges back to its former glory following a nearby fire in 2016 which killed thousands of fish due to decimated oxygen levels.

"We’ve given it the care that it deserves,” Coun Walton said, who also served as a councillor on Farington Parish Council.

"Most of the fish stock went with the fire. We’ve been doing a hell of a lot of work down there with the Environment Agency."

Tributes have also flooded in via social media.

Among them was one from Amy Kenyon, who said: "Rest in peace Graham, it was an absolute honour to support you when you were mayor. You always brightened my day and we had many a laugh together."

Martina Nicholson added: "He will be missed by many round the village."

Faye Naylor posted: "The most nicest man you could ever meet. My thoughts and prayers are with all the family."