Tributes have been paid to charismatic former Southend Mayor and longstanding councillor, Reg Copley, who died last week.

Mr Copley died Wednesday last week, after suffering from a short illness, in Southend University Hospital and was believed to be 89 years old.

He was a Labour councillor in Southend for a total of four decades, gaining his first seat in 1963 and losing his last one in 2004 in St Laurence ward.

But his career with the Labour Party did not begin as a councillor.

After finishing his service in the RAF during the Second World War, he campaigned on Clement Attlee’s General Election campaign in the early 1950s.

During his years of service as a Labour councillor in Southend, he has fought for more affordable housing in the town and, more recently, to keep Kent Elms library open in Southend.

During his time as mayor, in 1995 and 1996, he most notably banned real fur being used on Southend Council Mayor’s robes.

Although Mr Copley lost his seat on Southend Borough Council more than a decade ago, he did not lose his passion for politics.

He continued to campaign on many local issues and also stood for his old St Laurence ward in 2011, 2015 and 2016.

As well as being a councillor, he was an experienced journalist.

He worked as a freelance reporter for numerous publications in Essex as well as a writer for the Labour Party.

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour councillor for Milton ward in Southend, said: “He was a figure that a lot of people knew about. Even in my ward of Milton, people would know him.

“It was part to do with his longevity but mainly to do with his campaigning.

“He was a man of the people and he was a progressive man.

“Reg stands out as a real character and a nice, intelligent guy.

“He was longstanding and outstanding.”

Mr Copley spent a lot of his spare time with Councillor Ware-Lane and also helped him out during his 2015 General Election campaign for Southend West.

Councillor Ware-Lane added: “To me, he was always a good friend and easy to get along with.

“I would take time to spend with him to spend with him and his wife, Pauline, and keep him up-to-date with the latest political gossip. He was a genuinely nice guy.

“He was extremely supportive of me and grateful of my support for him.

Mr Copley was remembered for his witty humour and debating skills, his colleagues paid tributes to him.

Baroness of Basildon, Angela Smith, who was a Labour Co-operative MP for Basildon between 1997 and 2010, said: “He was totally and utterly committed to the council, especially his ward.

“His commitment to the Labour Party was totally ingrained in him.

“For many years, when I was an MP, he would always ring me with ideas. He didn’t lose his enthusiasm.”

Nigel Smith, who served with Reg for nine years on Southend Council, said: “A lot of people in the St Laurence ward should be very grateful to him.

“He was an outstanding mayor and he represented the town very well indeed.

“He was known colloquially as ‘Good Old Reg’ and we wrote that in one of his election campaigns.”

David Norman, Labour councillor for Victoria ward in Southend who knew Reg since the 1960s, said: “A meeting with Reg was always an enjoyable experience because he would bring a light touch and his wonderful sense of humour.

“He was always very entertaining and a lively speaker in meetings, and he often mocked his opponents with skill.

“His commitment to the Labour Party was such that his doorbell rang Red Flag. He was a Labour man to his fingertips.

“I was extremely fond of Reg, he was a very likeable man. I will miss him and his contributions to the Labour Party very greatly.

His son, Nicholas Copley, is planning to hold a memorial service for his father to recognise his service to the town.