TONY Moore was last night described as a champion of the people - a man who will be sorely missed by the community he represented for almost 30 years.

The 59-year-old councillor died after a suffering a heart attack yesterday afternoon at the pool-side of Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre, County Durham.

A Liverpudlian, Coun Moore, of Grassholme Place, Newton Aycliffe, was an independent councillor, respected by both local people and fellow councillors.

Members of all political persuasions from Great Aycliffe Town Council, Sedgefield Borough Council and Durham County Council, on which he served, recalled a hard-working community servant.

Fraser Davie, spokesman for Durham County Council and a former journalist, had known Coun Moore for some 30 years.

"He's always been a great friend of the media and a champion of the people, and he will be a great miss to everyone who knew him. My thoughts are with his family at this moment.

"He's been a larger-than-life character who has brightened up life for many people," he said.

Independent county councillor John Shuttleworth said: "He will be a big miss to Durham County Council and to the people of Newton Aycliffe - a very big miss."

Bob Pendlebury, deputy leader of the county council, said: "I'm dreadfully sorry for his family and he certainly will be missed."

A fellow borough councillor for Newton Aycliffe, Billy Blenkinsopp, was a Labour opponent of Coun Moore, but admired his work ethic and passion. He said: "He was very well respected by everybody within all councils."

Borough councillor Don Fraser said: "My condolences to his wife and family. This must be a devastating loss to them."

Borough council leader Brian Stephens said: "He has been a hard working councillor for the people of Aycliffe who he has represented diligently."

Town council leader Bob Fleming said: "Democracy thrives on valid opposition and that's exactly what Tony provided.

"If you went down the town on any given day and asked them to name one councillor, they would probably all say 'Tony Moore'."

Coun Moore leaves a wife, Joyce, two children, Anthony and Paul, and four grandchildren, Mark, Rebecca, Ashleigh and Dale