Tributes have been paid to one of the country's longest serving council leaders, Brian Hall, who has sadly passed away aged 88.

Brian served as leader of Stevenage Borough Council for 37 years, from 1971 to 2006.

He was made Honorary Freeman, the highest honour that a council of a city or borough can award, in September 1996. He was given the title of Honorary Alderman in July 2007. 

Brian was born in Brockley, South London and educated at Haberdashers Aske's School. He joined the Air Force and served for three years and went on to study mechanical engineering.

In 1965, he became the youngest serving councillor for Hertfordshire County Council, aged 29. He was leader of the Labour Group from 1969 until he retired in 2006, and he took a short break to become Mayor of Stevenage from 1975 to 1976.

Council colleagues have been paying their tributes to the stalwart since his death on Saturday, December 17.

Mayor of Stevenage, Cllr Margaret Notley, said: “I first met Brian when I came onto the council in 1992 when he was the leader of the council.

"Brian was certainly a force to be reckoned with and led the council in his own unique way. Although we were not in the same political party, I still admired his determination to get things done and he was always very hospitable to me, especially when we were partaking in our Town Twinning visits.

"Brian was the Mayor of Stevenage in the second year Stevenage became a borough. I did not know him then, but getting to know him many years later, I am sure he would have held that office with a terrific sense of pride. This is my second time as the Mayor of Stevenage and I know what an honour it is.

"I send my sincere condolences and deepest sympathy to his wife Stella and family at this very sad time.”

Leader of Stevenage's Liberal Democrat group, Robin Parker, said: "From 1982, as a member of SBC, I came to know Brian very well. He was a forthright and formidable political opponent. You picked a fight with Brian only after very careful weighing up of the odds.

"Brian was a determined and knowledgeable councillor, who knew in which direction he was going and what longer term plans he had for Stevenage.

"Asked about how he led his Labour Group, he often gave the answer 'I find out where the Group are going, then I lead them there'.

"He devoted a substantial part of his life to local politics and could not be faulted for his sincere commitment and strong belief in local democracy and the best interests of Stevenage.

"His grasp of local government finance was second to none amongst elected members far and wide.

"Whilst we are naturally sad at his passing, as I think about him, a smile is not out of place, as I recollect some of his funny verbal interventions. Brian had the disarming ability to attack you with a sense of humour, but never in a personal or rude manner.

"Many thanks Brian for everything that you did for local government, for Stevenage, for the role of humour in the council chamber and even for me."

Labour colleague and former Stevenage council leader Baroness Sharon Taylor added: “Very sad to learn that one of the great founding fathers of Stevenage new town, Brian Hall, passed away on Saturday.

"Brian died peacefully at home surrounded by his family. My thoughts and prayers are with Stella, his wife, his four children and his grandchildren all of whom he adored.”

Brian leaves his widow, Stella and other members of his family and naturally our thoughts are with them at this sad time.