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Tribute to former Gateshead Council leader

George Gill CBE

 It is with great sadness that Gateshead Council has learned of the death of George Gill CBE, at the age of 85. 

Mr Gill was a Gateshead councillor for 30 years, leader of Gateshead Council and chair of the Northumbria Police Authority for 17 years and his time in local politics coincided with a period of significant transformation in Gateshead. 

He was known nationally, along with the late Sir Les Elton, former chief executive of the Council, for spearheading visionary plans for the Borough. Their partnership at Gateshead Council of sixteen and a half years was regarded as one of the longest and most successful local government partnerships in the country. 

Mr Gill began his working life as a colliery electrician at Chopwell Colliery. He moved to the old Consett Iron Company which later became the British Steel Company.   

As a young engineer from Consett steelworks, he was chosen to represent Chopwell and Rowlands Gill on the newly formed Gateshead Council in 1974. 

He became an invaluable member of the Gateshead Labour front bench under the Leader at the time, Councillor Bill Collins, who first helped raise Gateshead's profile through projects such as the development of Gateshead International Stadium. 

After serving as deputy leader for a year after Bill Collin's retirement, Mr Gill then went on to become Leader of the Council, in 1986. 

Though often called on to play a part on the national and international stage, he retained close links with the local community, serving as a governor of Hookergate School and President of Chopwell Cricket Club and Chopwell Football Club.  

He played a crucial role in developing effective partnerships with the Borough's schools and with Gateshead College and he was a firm believer in providing the best possible opportunities for young people. 

But it is as Leader of Gateshead Council at a time of major, high profile and nationally recognised developments in the Borough that he will be best remembered.  

Metrocentre, the Gateshead Garden Festival of 1990, the Angel of the North, the transformation of Gateshead Quays into a major cultural centre, with its three landmark constructions - Gateshead Millennium Bridge, BALTIC, and Sage Gateshead - all came under Mr Gill's watch. 

For the man himself, the crowning moment of almost 30 years of public service was the completion and royal opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. As an engineer he appreciated the simplicity of the design as well as the challenges which needed to be overcome to make it a reality.  

 "The bridge is one of my most proudest moments and it was most certainly worth it," he said at the time. 

As Chair of the Northumbria Police Authority for 17 years, Mr Gill worked in partnership with four different Chief Constables to bring down the crime and fear of crime rates.   

In 1995 he was made a CBE in the New Year's Honours List and that same year became Deputy Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear. 

In May 2002 he became an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Gateshead and retired from the Council and from political life that same year. The following year he was recognised by the Council again being given the title of Honorary Alderman.   

Leader of Gateshead Council, Councillor Martin Gannon, who worked with Mr Gill from 1984 to 2002, said: "Those of us who worked with George knew him as a man of great ability and a strong leader. He made things happen. 

"Under his leadership, Gateshead Council became an excellent performing council recognised as delivering services of the very highest standard. This provided the solid platform for Gateshead's transformation, which would ultimately see the creation of international icons such as the Angel of the North, Gateshead Millennium Bridge, BALTIC, Sage Gateshead and much more.  

"George helped to bring the world to Gateshead's door, and I know he was immensely proud of the Borough and the region.  

"One of the key words we can use to describe George's style as leader is 'partnership'. Partnership with our schools, with business, the police, other local authorities and with his colleagues here at the council. He always realised that the only route to success was by working with - and respecting - other people. George was the ultimate team player. 

"He was a modest man and never sought any form of public recognition. His record of achievement, his loyalty and service and his absolute and total commitment to Gateshead Council and the people of Gateshead meant he was made a Commander of the British Empire, of which he was very proud. But, as a Gateshead man through and through, no honour meant more to him than being made a Freeman of the Borough of Gateshead. It has lost one of its most loyal and hardworking sons." 

George Gill CBE
19 May 2020

 It is with great sadness that Gateshead Council has learned of the death of George Gill CBE, at the age of 85. 

Mr Gill was a Gateshead councillor for 30 years, leader of Gateshead Council and chair of the Northumbria Police Authority for 17 years and his time in local politics coincided with a period of significant transformation in Gateshead. 

He was known nationally, along with the late Sir Les Elton, former chief executive of the Council, for spearheading visionary plans for the Borough. Their partnership at Gateshead Council of sixteen and a half years was regarded as one of the longest and most successful local government partnerships in the country. 

Mr Gill began his working life as a colliery electrician at Chopwell Colliery. He moved to the old Consett Iron Company which later became the British Steel Company.   

As a young engineer from Consett steelworks, he was chosen to represent Chopwell and Rowlands Gill on the newly formed Gateshead Council in 1974. 

He became an invaluable member of the Gateshead Labour front bench under the Leader at the time, Councillor Bill Collins, who first helped raise Gateshead's profile through projects such as the development of Gateshead International Stadium. 

After serving as deputy leader for a year after Bill Collin's retirement, Mr Gill then went on to become Leader of the Council, in 1986. 

Though often called on to play a part on the national and international stage, he retained close links with the local community, serving as a governor of Hookergate School and President of Chopwell Cricket Club and Chopwell Football Club.  

He played a crucial role in developing effective partnerships with the Borough's schools and with Gateshead College and he was a firm believer in providing the best possible opportunities for young people. 

But it is as Leader of Gateshead Council at a time of major, high profile and nationally recognised developments in the Borough that he will be best remembered.  

Metrocentre, the Gateshead Garden Festival of 1990, the Angel of the North, the transformation of Gateshead Quays into a major cultural centre, with its three landmark constructions - Gateshead Millennium Bridge, BALTIC, and Sage Gateshead - all came under Mr Gill's watch. 

For the man himself, the crowning moment of almost 30 years of public service was the completion and royal opening of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. As an engineer he appreciated the simplicity of the design as well as the challenges which needed to be overcome to make it a reality.  

 "The bridge is one of my most proudest moments and it was most certainly worth it," he said at the time. 

As Chair of the Northumbria Police Authority for 17 years, Mr Gill worked in partnership with four different Chief Constables to bring down the crime and fear of crime rates.   

In 1995 he was made a CBE in the New Year's Honours List and that same year became Deputy Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear. 

In May 2002 he became an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Gateshead and retired from the Council and from political life that same year. The following year he was recognised by the Council again being given the title of Honorary Alderman.   

Leader of Gateshead Council, Councillor Martin Gannon, who worked with Mr Gill from 1984 to 2002, said: "Those of us who worked with George knew him as a man of great ability and a strong leader. He made things happen. 

"Under his leadership, Gateshead Council became an excellent performing council recognised as delivering services of the very highest standard. This provided the solid platform for Gateshead's transformation, which would ultimately see the creation of international icons such as the Angel of the North, Gateshead Millennium Bridge, BALTIC, Sage Gateshead and much more.  

"George helped to bring the world to Gateshead's door, and I know he was immensely proud of the Borough and the region.  

"One of the key words we can use to describe George's style as leader is 'partnership'. Partnership with our schools, with business, the police, other local authorities and with his colleagues here at the council. He always realised that the only route to success was by working with - and respecting - other people. George was the ultimate team player. 

"He was a modest man and never sought any form of public recognition. His record of achievement, his loyalty and service and his absolute and total commitment to Gateshead Council and the people of Gateshead meant he was made a Commander of the British Empire, of which he was very proud. But, as a Gateshead man through and through, no honour meant more to him than being made a Freeman of the Borough of Gateshead. It has lost one of its most loyal and hardworking sons." 

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