A FORMER councillor who became Basildon’s first ever alderman has died after battling a long illness.

Tributes have been paid to “true gentleman” Geoffrey Buckenham, 77, who served as chairman of Basildon District Council – as it was then known – in 2003 and 2007.

He enjoyed a long career as a district councillor, representing Burstead ward from 1991 to 1995 and again between 1998 and 2010.

He served on numerous committees, before retiring from public service shortly before Basildon gained borough status in 2010.

Mr Buckenham became the first ever alderman of Basildon Council in 2011, which ranked him just below the mayor.

Conservative council leader Phil Turner said: “Geoff was a loyal and hardworking servant of his community, a committed Conservative, but, more importantly, he was a true gentleman: a kind-hearted, soft-spoken man with a keen sense of humour, who played an important part in making sure that Billericay retained its historic charm and character and that the entire district prospered.

“Many of us owe Geoff a deep debt of gratitude. He is remembered fondly by all who knew him and, during his time with, us he lit up our lives with his sunny disposition and willingness to help others.

“On his watch, our community was always in safe and secure hands and he left Billericay and Basildon a much better place.”

Mr Buckenham was born into a farming family and attended Brentwood Boys’ School as a boarder before going into the family business.