Halton’s longest serving councillor celebrates his half century
Cllr Tony McDermott, 81, is still serving the same Widnes ward that he was elected to on 5 May 1972.
Over his 50 years, Tony has also served as Mayor of Halton during the civic year 1998-99 and was Leader between 1999 and 2010.
It was a turbulent time in British politics when Tony began his involvement with local government back in 1972. The then Prime Minister, Ted Heath, had signed the treaty taking the UK into the EEC (later the EU) and miners strikes led to power cuts across the country.
In that year, Tony was elected to Widnes Council as a member for the Broadheath (now Bankfield) Ward – the ward that he continues to serve today.
Two years later and Halton Borough Council was formed as part of local government reforms in 1974. As a member of the Council, in addition to supporting his constituents, Tony chaired the Council’s Finance Committee through the Poll Tax years in the 1980s and Economic Development Committee in the 1990s, leading on regeneration bids as well as developing a ‘City Challenge’ funding bid, which though unsuccessful, formed a blueprint for further development in Runcorn and Widnes.
It was the regeneration of the borough that formed the hallmark of his time as Leader between 1999 and 2010 – including the development of Victoria Square, transformation of Castlefields and improved shopping and leisure facilities – including the opening of Halton Stadium and The Hive.
He campaigned for Daresbury Laboratory – now the internationally renowned Sci-Tech Daresbury and as Chair of the Mersey Gateway Group for 14 years, he led on making the case and building support for the Mersey Gateway Bridge.
In the noughties he chaired the North West Regional Assembly and served on the board of North West Develoment Agency for six years.
Outside of local politics, Tony who was born in Lockett Road, Widnes, spent his career in education, teaching in secondary, grammar and comprehensive schools in both Widnes and in Liverpool.
This keen interest in education saw him take on the role of Chair of the Widnes Education Committee in 1973 and lead on the reorganisation of Widnes secondary schools and the establishment of the Sixth Form College, the brainchild of John Collins.
What keeps Tony going? He says it’s his “good fortune in having so many great colleagues, such loyal local people and above all the support of my wonderful wife Jean who has looked after the home front for over 50 years”.
Commenting on Tony’s 50 years, current Leader of Halton Borough Council, Cllr Mike Wharton, who himself marks 20 years as an elected member this year, said: “Tony is Halton through and through. For the past 50 years, Tony has dedicated himself to supporting and representing his constituents and to campaigning passionately for the causes that he believes will drive this borough forward.
“He has been a tremendous ambassador for Halton and also for local government as a whole, demonstrating the important role of elected members within our democracy.
“I’d like to thank Tony for the contribution he has made and continues to make in the borough.”
In 2007, Tony’s services to local government were recognised when he was awarded the MBE by the Queen. In 2017 Tony was awarded the highest civic honour becoming an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Halton.
Tony has been married to Jean for 53 years and has four children and four grandchildren.