Tributes to Harrogate 'man of vision' by leading Lib Dems

Top Harrogate Lib Dems have paid fulsome tributes after the funeral of a former Harrogate mayor who was a distinguished and long-serving councillor.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 10:56 am
Updated Friday, 10th January 2020, 11:01 am
Tributes have been paid to ex-Harrogate mayor George Crowther OBE, pictured here with wife Joan.

Mr George Crowther OBE, who represented the East Central ward, now mainly High Harrogate, on Harrogate Borough Council from 1984 to 2002, was praised for his "vision" and "determination."

Mr Crowther was deputy leader of the council from 1990 up until the time he became mayor of Harrogate district from 1999 to 2000 and worked closely with then-council leader Phil Willis before the latter became Harrogate and Knaresborough MP from 1997 to 2010.

He was also chairman of planning at Harrogate Borough Council and, briefly, chairman of finance as well, before becoming an honorary alderman.

Mr Crowther died peacefully at Grosvenor House Care Home on December 17, he was 96.

He and his wife Joan had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary just last year.

Current Harrogate Lib Dem leader Coun Pat Marsh hailed him as a man of vision who had created a great team with then MP Phil Willis.

She said: "It was the vision of George Crowther that needs to be recognised.

"He was deputy leader of the Council, Phil Willis being the leader, together they made a marvelous team, George's vision and Phil's ability to deliver.

"Without George's vision there would be no Hornbeam Station, no Harrogate, Knaresborough or Ripon bus stations (remember there had been deregulations of buses and Councils had to sell off bus stations, George went to court to save Harrogate's).

"He made those projects happen, along with 2 new car parks, Victoria and Jubilee.

"Unfortunately his desire to have a transport interchange involving the bus station and the railway station he was never able to deliver, the Lib Dems lost power the Tories took over and 16 years later we are still waiting.

"These achievements along with many others were achieved in the 13 years of a Lib Dem administration."

Mr Crowther was a civil engineer by profession and he had many ideas for local road developments which ended when the Lib Dems lost power in Harrogate.

Lib Dem Coun Philip Broadbank listed Mr Crowther's long list of achievements and said he was a "determined" councillor, unafraid of taking challenges head-on or facing down political opponents.

Coun Broadbank said: "George pushed for and secured the Rail Halt at Hornbeam Park, the re-opening of the Bus Stations in Ripon, Knaresborough and Harrogate after losing them to privatisation, reduced council external debt from £64m to £20m, restructured the Conference Centre business into a successful, profitable arms length trading operation and worked with Housing Associations to deliver 1000 new affordable homes in the district.

"He worked hard to protect public services against central government controls and restrictions and was keen to build strong links throughout the whole district.

"He was never frightened to find difficult solutions to long standing issues and defend his ideas against strong opposition.

"He was always straightforward and determined to do what he thought was right.

"He relished the challenge of making difficult decisions and enthusiastically campaigned against his critics."

A life of service to the community included working tirelessly for many local charities including Saint Michael’s Hospice and Knaresborough Age Concern.

George Crowther was father to Jeffrey and Michael, and a grandfather and great grandfather.

A funeral service was held at Stonefall Crematorium in Harrogate.