Tribute has been paid to a man who helped to shape the democratic structure of Bury St Edmunds.
John Ayers, who died on September 10 aged 79, was the founding member of the ‘Freedom to Choose’ group which pushed for the formation of a town council, resulting in a ballot in 2001.
Mr Ayers was born in Liverpool in 1937 and spent his youth and early life in the city. He married Barbara in 1969 and worked around the country before retiring to Bury in 1993 and developing an interest in local politics.
Freedom to Choose group colleague Richard Mortlock said Mr Ayers felt councillors from across the borough were voting on town matters but, without a council, townsfolk had no direct voice.
Mr Ayers was initially a lone campaigner for the town council but eventually, in June 2000, wrote to organisations across Bury asking for help in setting up a ‘freedom to choose a town council or not’ group. He won enough support to form the group the following month.
In September 2000, the group decided to press the borough council for a full consultation on the ‘town council or not’ issue and a year later, 37.7 per cent of Bury’s voters had their say in a postal ballot, with 70 per cent voting in favour of forming a town council.
The first town council elections were held in April 2003.
“Here we are, 14 years later, with a thriving town council,” said Mr Mortlock.
“I hope John will be long remembered for his tireless work.”