Tributes paid to Labour 'stalwart' and dedicated ex-councillor

Tributes have been paid to a former Willenhall councillor and dedicated 'stalwart' of the Labour Party who has passed away. Father-of-two Gareth Illmann-Walker, who represented the Willenhall North for four years from May 2011, lost a long battle with cancer last month.

At a full council meeting on Wednesday (May 22), members from across the chamber shared fond memories of Mr Illmann-Walker, who was aged in his 40s. He is survived by his wife Anja and their two children. As well as being a councillor, he worked for former West Bromwich West Labour MP Adrian Bailey and his fundraising efforts in Willenhall and beyond.

Willenhall South councillor Simran Cheema said: "Gareth was a stalwart of Willenhall Labour being involved in politics from a young age. In his career Gareth worked for Adrian Bailey MP and dedicated himself to working across Willenhall.

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"He served the community for four years, he worked tirelessly in the community especially doing his fancy dress and raising money for Willenhall Carnival. He studied at universities in the UK and in Finland and he travelled the world where he met his wife Anja and they share two children.

"Gareth had a keen interest in Willenhall Lock Museum and lived next door, much to his benefit and he shared passions in technology and IT. Gareth was one of the first people I met when I joined the Labour Party at the age of 16 and he was the one who showed me the ropes and was a great source of knowledge.

"He will be sorely missed by the Labour Party and all those that knew him in this chamber and outside. Our thoughts and sympathies go to his family."

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Councillor Aftab Nawaz, leader of the Independent Group said: "I knew Gareth quite a while when I was in the Labour Party. Gareth was one of those people who was always really proud of his IT skills. I remember in one of the Scrutiny meetings we had, he got into this real to and fro with officers and it was almost like 'who knows more about IT than the other' and it was quite amazing to watch.

"He was a very good guy, a passionate person about politics and he worked really hard for the Labour Party. My condolences to his family and to the Labour Group."

Council leader Mike Bird and deputy Adrian Andrew both said it was 'very sad' to see someone die so young. Councillor Andrew said: "He was incredibly committed to the Labour Party.

"When he was in Aberystwyth he used to do a sponsored bike ride back and forth to raise funds for the Labour Party at the time. When we were young, we launched a campaign collectively for votes for 16-year-olds.

"Condolences to the family because to go at such a young age, and as someone who lost a parent when I was a teenager, I very much feel for his family."

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