Tributes paid to former Wirral Mayor Jim Edwards - the borough's most controversial civic leader (From Wirral Globe)
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Tributes paid to former Wirral Mayor Jim Edwards - the borough's most controversial civic leader
TRIBUTES have been paid to former Mayor of Wirral Jim Edwards, who died on Friday at the age of 84.
Mr Edwards was renowned as a tenacious councillor who never shirked a political fight and was often at the centre of controversy.
Colleague and ex-Labour group leader Cllr Steve Foulkes said in a tribute today: "Jim will be remembered as an affable and strong character who served the communities of Leasowe and Moreton for many years.
"He was not without controversy but he was always good company - knowledgeable and funny."
Mr Edwards' installation as mayor in 1990 sparked shocking scenes of dissent and led to a split within the Labour group.
He had disagreed fundamentally with the direction the council Labour leadership was taking, accusing it of Left-wing posturing.
Among the proposals which led to his departure was the renaming of Birkenhead's historic Hamilton Square as “Nelson Mandela Plaza.”
His friend and Labour group colleague Ken Fox - a veteran councillor who was elected mayor in 1975 - felt the same, and the pair split away to form their own two-man independent grouping.
In the early-1990s, the mayoralty played a crucial role.
In a time before the town hall had a ruling "cabinet" the political divide in terms of seats was so closely balanced that the civic leader held the casting vote on all important issues of the day.
Determined to thwart the election of a Labour mayor, Tory and Liberal groups united to vote for Mr Edwards - to the fury of their opponents.
As Cllr Edwards prepared to receive the official chains of office, one of his former Labour colleagues stormed onto the platform and hurled “30 pieces of silver” - a bag full of ten-pence pieces - in the direction of the startled new mayor.
The febrile atmosphere of that evening set the tone for the rest of his year in office.
He retired from the council in 1992.
Political opponent, and another former council leader, Cllr John Hale, said: "Cllr Edwards could be forthright in his views - most of which I didn't agree with.
"The thing I remember most clearly about him was at his mayor-making ceremony when, as I recall, he was elected on a Liberal-Tory vote.”
Mr Edwards first entered the political arena when he was elected councillor for Egremont ward on the old Wallasey Council.
He joined Wirral Council on local government re-organisation from 1974 to 1978 as a Moreton ward member and was re-elected in 1978 in Leasowe ward.
Born in Bootle in 1929, he settled in Moreton with his wife Elsie in 1952.
Educated in Liverpool and Ormskirk he was employed in the motor trade.
Mr Edwards did his National Service with the Royal Signals from 1947 to 1949.
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