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Eight former councillors recognised for outstanding contributions 

24 May 2024

A group of people stood outside the Guildhall, Northampton posing for a photo

Eight former councillors have been honoured for their extraordinary contributions to the council and the local community.  

The title of Honorary Alderman, presented at the Extraordinary Full Council meeting, is the highest honour that can be offered to a former Councillor, for exceptional dedication and service to the Council and the people it represents.

The recipients of the Honorary Alderman title are: 

 Sandra Barnes MBE, with a career in public service spanning nearly three decades, characterised by exemplary leadership and tireless dedication to her community. Sandra was a council member in South Northamptonshire for twenty-six years and served in various leadership roles, including Chair of the Council and Leader for eleven years. Sandra was appointed to various committees, including the UK delegation to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to the Council of Europe, where she was elected Leader and President of the Social Cohesion Committee. She was also involved in work with the Committee of the Regions at the EU Parliament and was a Director of the LGIB. In addition to her impressive portfolio of national and international engagements, Sandra remained actively involved in various local and regional bodies, including the East Midlands Cultural Consortium and the East Midlands Regional Assembly. Her contributions to the community also extended to health bodies, where she served as a board member and even chaired the Family Health Services Authority.  In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the community and the NHS, Sandra was awarded an Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2010. 

Caryl Billingham MBE, a constant source of strength and compassion in the town of Brackley for over four decades, having served 31 years as a member of South Northamptonshire Council. Caryl’s roles as President of the Brackley Royal British Legion branch, President of the local amateur dramatic society, and Chairman of the Brackley & District Band showcase her diverse interests and unwavering support for community initiatives.  From her exemplary service as Mayor to her dedication to numerous charitable organisations, Caryl's selfless contributions have touched the lives of countless individuals, earning her the utmost respect and admiration of her peers and constituents alike. In recognition of her exceptional dedication and service to the community of Brackley, Caryl was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s 90th Birthday honours in 2016.  

Liz Griffin, who served as the Deputy Leader of the former Daventry District Council for sixteen years is being recognised for her commitment to promoting a thriving community. Liz’s dedication to service extended beyond administrative roles; Liz also served as Chairman in 2005, where she represented the council at various events and functions, all while raising funds for charitable causes. Liz is a passionate advocate for her constituents and worked tirelessly to achieve excellence in public service, her dedication and integrity have left a legacy of compassion and service. 

David Harries BEM has dedicated almost fifty years to serving the community of Bugbrooke, as a member of the Parish Council, often as Chair or Vice-Chair and the former South Northamptonshire Council, including periods as Chair of the Council and Chair of the Audit Committee. He is involved with several local organisations and charities, including many years as Chair of the Bugbrooke Millennium Green Trust and the Bugbrooke Sports and Community Centre Association. David is well known for his work with the County History Society and for his efforts to promote and develop the area. In 2016, he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his services to the community.  

Chris Millar served as the Leader of the former Daventry District Council (DDC) for over twenty years.  Chris served the local community and wards of Brixworth and Long Buckby with distinction during this time and oversaw a well-respected and forward thinking local authority. He also became the 48th Chairman of the council in 2020. Chris was a County Councillor for 12 years representing Brixworth division and also mentored many councillors across the country helping to shape the next generation of community leaders. He also served on the Local Government Association National Executive for 6 years and on the East Midlands Executive Board for a number of years during his time as DDC Chairman, he raised funds for Time2Talk and Marie Curie while promoting Daventry District 257 square miles and its surrounding areas. 

Judy Shephard served for over twenty-four years as a County Councillor for Northamptonshire.  During this time, she chaired the Development Control and Health, Adult Social Care and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee for two terms each, showcasing her exceptional leadership and commitment to addressing key community issues. Her tenure as County Council Chairman extended to two terms, from which she steered the Council with grace and effectiveness. In addition to her council duties, Judy shared her expertise with various organisations, serving as a member of the Northamptonshire Healthcare Trust, Cadet Force, and the East Anglia Flood Committee. Her dedication to community involvement is further evidenced by her forty-plus years of service as a Boughton Parish Council member, where she worked tirelessly to address the needs of residents and promote local initiatives raising over £26k for Cynthia Spencer Hospice.  

Suresh Patel’s exemplary service as a councillor on both the Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council has left an enduring legacy in our community. During his time in office, he held several positions, including Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Children's Services. He also served on various committees and represented East Hunsbury after the establishment of unitary authorities in 2021. Beyond his council duties, Suresh's commitment to community engagement was evident through his involvement in local parish councils, including Duston and East Hunsbury & Wootton. His hands-on approach to community involvement underscores his deep-rooted connection to the people he served. Prior to his retirement in 2023, Suresh also served on the Parish Councils of Duston and East Hunsbury and Wootton. The impact of his tireless advocacy and unwavering commitment to public service will be felt for years to come. 

Mary-Anne Sergison-Brooke served as a Councillor at the former South Northamptonshire Council for almost forty years. As Chairman of the Housing Committee, she played a major role in transferring the Council’s housing stock to the Grand Union Housing Association. The reason was that they had the money, which the Council did not, to modernise and improve the houses for the benefit of the tenants. She was a member of the Planning Committee for many years and supported the Housing Design Code for South Northamptonshire Council which has led to this area having the best-looking houses in the county. She was Chairman of Chipping Warden Primary School when it attained outstanding ratings from Ofsted. She, unsuccessfully, opposed HS2. She is still a Trustee of the Lady Blakenham Charity Trust which distributes money to various good causes and a member of the PPC for Edgcote Church. 

“These extraordinary individuals have dedicated their lives to serving our community with unwavering passion and dedication. Their contributions have touched the lives of countless residents, leaving an enduring legacy of service and compassion. We are privileged to honour their remarkable achievements and celebrate their impact on our community." Cllr John Shephard, West Northamptonshire Chairman

The position of Honorary Alderman is a non-political honour presented to former Councillors in recognition of their exceptional service to the Council and the community. Recipients of this prestigious title are afforded several privileges, including the opportunity to attend Council meetings as observers, receive invitations to civic events, and wear the Badge of Office of Honorary Alderman on civic occasions. 

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