Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sir Simon Milton 1961 - 2011

A great many mourners attended Simon's funeral in Edgware yesterday. Of course there was a large City Hall contingent, but there were also a lot of present and former Westminster councillors, a number of government ministers and of course Simon's many friends and family. My first sight of Simon was when he took part in a television interview as a young councillor in Westminster. I was new to politics and quite ambitious and I remember thinking that if this was the standard of person I would be competing with, I would have my work cut out. At the time Westminster was going through the upheaval which followed the departure of Dame Shirley Porter. A succession of leaders passed through in quick succession, until Simon took the helm and brought things back under control. Simon was a man of great ability who vastly improved services in Westminster and went on to use his skills and experience leading the Local Government Association. He was good at bringing people together across the political divide and this is where his abilities transcended being merely intelligent or hard working - Simon understood people and could appreciate other points of view. I really only got to know Simon well in 2008 when he arrived at City Hall. The first few months of our administration had been difficult, with the loss of deputy mayor Ray Lewis, and once again Simon brought some much needed stability and hands on experience of local government. He quickly became very close to Boris, accompanying him on every important occasion, making his judgement available. I don't recall ever seeing him lose his temper, even in the most trying of circumstances. Simon helped me out on a number of occasions when things got difficult and I sought advice, which he gave generously, with no strings attached. I feel that I was enriched personally for knowing him. His loss is a great tragedy for our city, and no less a tragedy for his family and his partner Robert. My heart goes out to them in their grief.

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