Tributes to "wonderfully engaging" South Ribble councillor committed to tackling climate change

Cllr Ken Jones, who passed away on 8th February
Cllr Ken Jones, who passed away on 8th February

Tributes have been paid to a Leyland councillor who passed away over the weekend.

Ken Jones had been suffering from cancer and died on Saturday at the age of 72.

He had represented the St. Ambrose ward as a Labour member of South Ribble Borough Council - together with his wife, Sue - since 2013.

The Labour leader of the authority, Paul Foster, described his colleague as “a stalwart for the causes he devoted much of his life to and a wonderfully engaging local councillor”.

“Ken was immensely effective and successful in the support of his local community and, on a personal note, he was the most loyal of colleagues. I will sincerely miss his drive, enthusiasm and friendship - may he rest peacefully,” he said, sending sympathies to the Jones family.

One of the biggest issues Cllr Jones championed in recent years was local action on climate change. The final time his distinct and authoritative tones were heard in the chamber was last July when he successfully proposed that the borough declare a climate emergency - and set itself a tough target to go carbon neutral within a decade.

He said at the time that his hope was “where South Ribble leads, the world will follow”.

Even as his health deteriorated, Cllr Jones chaired the climate change task group which last month set out how South Ribble intended to achieve its carbon-cutting aims.

His deputy on that group, Conservative councillor Stephen Thurlbourn, said of him: "As a person who had great concern for the environment and the future, Ken was somebody to be respected. I wish I could have tapped into his knowledge more, but time has sadly beaten us."

Cllr Jones was also the borough’s air quality champion, having regularly raised concern over levels of pollution - particularly in and around his own ward in Leyland. In 2017, he called for the building of a new road to connect the Tomlinson Road industrial estate to Centurion Way - providing a through-route from the town to junction 29 of the M6 in order to minimise HGV traffic on Golden Hill Lane.

The bread and butter concerns of a councillor’s in tray were often at the forefront of his campaigning. Just last year, he fought for the retention of the Station Surgery in Leyland and the rejuvenation of Strawberry Valley Park on Bent Lane.

Jo Hindle-Taylor, one of the leaders of the Strawberry Valley campaign, said she would be forever grateful for Cllr Jones’s involvement.

“From planting bulbs to helping transport wildlife boxes, both Ken and Sue were 100 percent supportive right from the start.

"Most importantly, he stepped up when there was talk of building on the park - he fought against it, stood his ground and was just an amazing support. We couldn’t have done it without them,” Jo added.

Cllr Jones’s strident convictions were also on display when he publicly criticised the introduction of a new car parking system at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital just over a year ago.

He spoke out about behind-the-scenes disquiet amongst the hospital trust’s governors - of which he was one - describing the atmosphere as “mutinous”. He was initially suspended by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals over his comments, but later reinstated.

Ken Jones - who was once a renowned film editor for the BBC’s regional news programme, North West Tonight - attended a meeting of the full council as recently as November. He had wanted to be in the chamber less than a fortnight ago for what members were told he believed would be his last debate at the authority, but was too unwell to make it.

He is survived by his wife, Sue - South Ribble’s cabinet member for the environment - and their three sons.