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countering the spin and providing the balance


Obituary - Alderman Mary Eileen Hall JP

Bus pass money snaffled to cover debtBreaking with recent tradition, counterbalance is taking time to pay tribute to, and to mourn the passing of, a truly great Fylde Councillor. Latterly Alderman, but formerly Councillor, Eileen Hall spent much of her time at Fylde Council chairing her pride and passion - the Leisure & Amenities (later the Tourism and Leisure) Committee, and the whole of Fylde has cause to be grateful for her achievements.

In the days before spin and deception, when political debate meant something, (and when we had it at Fylde), she epitomised integrity, and generated real cross-party respect. She could easily swing a debate with  her clear, commonsense logic and cogent argument. When she spoke, everyone listened; and it was very unusual if they did not follow. Wholly un-pc, she would feign offence if addressed as "Chair" when all around Councils were trying to de-genderise the more traditional "Chairman".

Always a sharp dresser, and the exemplification of civil society, she brought honour, integrity, and style to both the Council and the area. Solidly old-style conservative, but with an overriding portion of pure common sense, and a more than generous dose of encouragement and compassion for anyone willing to make the effort, she was always on top of her game.

Typically for someone who drove her staff hard, at times she was infuriating and demanding but, like Winston Churchill - she was easily satisfied with the best. One of her senior lieutenants was once heard to say that Council staff actually liked a Chairman who rode the departmental horse hard, because they always knew the direction they would take, everyone was clear, and knew what was expected of them.

She had a passion for flowers and gardening, and instigated the highly popular "Fylde in Bloom" scheme - which began in Kirkham, and has left a legacy of more than just a string of beautified villages. It has also left a chain of local organisations that work together for the common good. Almost instinctively, she understood how to use public expenditure to multiply its benefit, not only in a physical sense, but also to create the social glue that binds society together.

On taking the chair of the Leisure and Amenities Committee, she inherited a motley collection of buildings that had been run down and starved of maintenance cash. She set about arguing her corner for resources with other services and succeeded to self-evident effect with many. She brought about the re-furbishment and restoration of Lytham Windmill, including a large grant from Europe. She initiated a 150,000 scheme to safety surface, and replace all the worn out playground equipment throughout the Fylde's playgrounds, and she developed the extremely popular Gardening Exhibition Centre out of the old greenhouses in Ashton Gardens.

But probably her crowning glory, and the development for which she will be best remembered was the inception, funding, and building of the much-loved St Anne's Swimming Pool.

She was equally at home with princes and paupers, talking to all with her unique blend of empathy and sparkle. She was a builder, developer, and most important of all, she was that rare someone who both made things happen, and who cared deeply for her fellow human beings. The world is a lesser place without  her.

Dated:  14 June 2006


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