Tributes paid to former Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council leader Stanley Atkinson
PUBLISHED: 16:57 03 June 2020 | UPDATED: 17:08 03 June 2020
Former Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council leader Stanley Atkinson, who had “a passion for serving the community”, has died aged 93.
Stanley of West Mead, Welwyn Garden City, died on May 26 Isabel Hospice.
He was elected as a Welwyn Hatfield Labour councillor for Howlands ward in 1978, later becoming housing chair, then leader of the council in 1984 and chairman from 1994 to 1995.
Before this, Stanley served in WW2 in the Royal Signals in Egypt and became an electronic engineer.
He moved to Welwyn Garden City in 1956 when he got a job at De Havilland in Hatfield, where he tested and worked on new instrumentation for the planes built there until his retirement in 1990, when it closed down.
He leaves behind three sons, a daughter, six grandchildren and his wife of 70 years, Rosemarie.
The pair celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary last boxing day.
His daughter Yvonne said: “One of his greatest achievements while leader of the council was to oversee the building of many new council houses. In his last year as a councillor he presided as chairman of the council over the 75th anniversary of Welwyn Garden City in 1995.
“He said ‘memorable parts of the celebrations were finding out about the people who came here in the 1950s in their droves’.”
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He loved Welwyn Garden City and said moving there was the best thing he ever did.
Former Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council chief executive, Dr Michel Saminaden, paid tribute to Stanley: “I have known councillor Stanley Atkinson for over 30 years and am proud to say that he has been good friend to Maureen and me over all those years. I mustn’t forget the lovely Rosemarie as well, who has also been a very dear friend to us over the years.
“My first introduction to Stanley – he always said to me he liked to be called Stanley although most people called him Stan – was when I came to Welwyn Hatfield Council for an interview for the post of finance director in 1989. Stanley was chairing the appointments panel in his usual formidable way, robust and straightforward, but very open and friendly. I could see immediately that he was in charge of proceedings and everybody knew it. I was very fortunate to be appointed to the post and there commenced my long and happy relationship with him.
“What I recall most about Stanley was his passion for serving the community. He was a committed Labour party member who wanted to do all he could to make this community better. The words that spring to mind when I think of Stanley are: duty, decency, reliability, honour, dignity, respect, and above all, leadership.
“He had all these qualities, and more, in spades full. He was a very strong leader, and everybody knew where they stood with him. There was no side to Stanley, he said it as he saw it, which did not please everybody. However, people underestimated him at their peril.
“He was a very intelligent and articulate leader, a strategic thinker who could get the better of most people in the many debates in which he took part in the council chamber.
“Stanley’s real passion was council housing and it was always his ambition to build as many good quality council houses as resources would allow. He was always fighting battles against the government of the day, of any colour, if he felt they were trying to impede him from achieving this goal.
“He managed to build many hundreds of excellent quality council homes in Welwyn Hatfield, a legacy of which he is rightly proud. He hated calling it social housing, always saying that we should be proud to call it what it is, council housing. He was a very proud Labour councillor who believed in local councils delivering locals services for local people.
“Stanley was also very passionate about social care, which he felt was not being provided adequately by the county council. He therefore embarked on a huge programme of building community centres and introducing meals on wheels.
“Stanley lived through many highs during his time as leader of the council, but of course some low points as well. The lowest point of all was having to live through the Slough Estates debacle, which I know sapped his energy immensely.
“Stanley Atkinson achieved a lot during his life, and contributed much to his community. Maureen and I are personally very glad to have been fortunate to have known Stanley and I pay tribute to the loss of a decent, kind and dignified soul. A soul that brought joy and fulfilment to many. He will be sadly missed.”
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