A VETERAN councillor who has dedicated more than 50 years to serving Darlington has announced his retirement.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Theresa May recognised the remarkable dedication of Cllr Bill Stenson, who has devoted half a century to representing his town’s people.

The much-loved politician has now penned a poignant letter to Darlington’s mayor, in which he says ill health has driven a reluctant decision to stand down from his role on the council.

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In it, he said: “It is with very great regret that I am writing to you as my last act as a councillor.

“I have now served the council for over 50 years and have done so with great pride, honour, responsibility and at times with humour.

“It has been my pleasure to have served both in Eastbourne and Mowden wards as a councillor throughout this time, serving the needs and requirements of the people and the council of Darlington.

“The last 50 years has brought a great deal of personal pride and achievement and I have been proud to see how this council and down has developed over the last 50 years.

“I have, with members of the Conservative party, faced a number of battles which I have enjoyed and have at all times taken my service to the town seriously and with great pride.”

At a meeting of Darlington Borough Council on Thursday night, councillors from across the town will give thanks to Cllr Stenson for his decades of unfailing loyalty and dedication to the community.

The Conservative councillor, author, builder and well-known colourful character was first elected to represent the Mowden ward in 1965.

Aside from a short break in the early 1970s, Cllr Stenson dedicated his life from then until very recently to serving the people of Darlington and celebrated the 50th anniversary of his election in June.

Cllr Stenson – whose age is a closely kept secret – was last elected to serve the ward again on Darlington Borough Council in 2015.

During his time on the council, Cllr Stenson turned his hand to writing and penned two autobiographies – Night Owl and Bat Out of Hell – documenting his colourful ife.

As he announced his retirement, Cllr Stenson said the highlight of his time as a councillor was when he and his late wife Laura, were appointed as mayor and mayoress of the town.

In the letter he received from 10 Downing Street, Teresa May called Cllr Stenson “one of the country’s most dedicated local councillors”.

She went on to say: “You have made a significant contribution to your community and should be very proud of all that you have achieved.

“I know that the Conservative group in Darlington are incredibly grateful for all of your hard work – indeed, our Party is built upon the loyalty and dedication of people like you.”

A casual vacancy for a councillor for the Mowden Ward is expected to be posted on DBC’s website in the coming weeks.

A by-election could then be called, if requested by local voters.