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Son of Sandwell suddenly passes away

Son of Sandwell suddenly passes away

🕔27.Mar 2016

The West Midlands politician who could claim to have advanced the region’s progress towards a combined authority most over the last 18 months has passed away suddenly, report Kevin Johnson and Paul Dale

Tributes have poured in for the late Councillor Darren Cooper (52), leader of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, who died yesterday, 26 March 2016. Cooper had been a councillor on Sandwell Council since 1991 and was the Leader of the Council since 2009.

It is most unlikely the West Midlands combined authority would exist today in its current form without efforts behind the scenes by Darren Cooper. When he told Chamberlain Files that Birmingham and Solihull had a Christmas deadline to agree in principle to join the Black Country councils, he kickstarted a fast-track political process that brought together all seven metropolitan West Midlands councils and eventually triggered a £8 billion devolution deal.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said:

Darren Cooper was one of Labour’s most committed and passionate local government leaders of the last twenty years and stood resolute in his support for the people of Sandwell.

A long-serving councillor, he worked diligently to implement Labour’s core values of social justice and equality of opportunity despite the huge challenges faced by local government over the last few years.

My deepest sympathies are with Darren’s family, friends and colleagues at this very difficult time.

Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and MP for West Bromwich East, said:

There will be many members of the Labour Party who will wish to pay their tributes to Darren as a civic and political leader.

I would like to remember the funny and humorous friend who loved the Albion and bank holiday fishing. We shall all miss Darren, a true son of Sandwell.

My thoughts, prayers and love are with Karen and Darren’s family.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

Like many I am shocked at the sudden death of Councillor Darren Cooper. He had an outstanding record of public service which was recognised across the country and his work for the people of Sandwell will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family.

Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:

Darren’s contribution to Sandwell and the Black Country is immeasurable. A Councillor for nearly twenty five years and leader of Sandwell Council since 2009, he was one of the most important Labour Leaders in Britain. He was a huge talent – he fought for Labour values to get the best for the people that he served so diligently in Sandwell. Our movement is diminished by his loss and his experience, charisma and leadership will be sorely missed. My deepest sympathies go to his family at this extremely sad time.

Another former Labour leader, Ed Miliband, said on twitter:

Devastating news about Darren Cooper. He was one of a kind: in touch, charismatic, innovative, deeply loyal and a truly lovely man.

Councillor John Clancy, council leader in neighbouring Birmingham and a close political ally and friend, said:

I was heartbroken to hear this morning about Darren’s passing away. I deeply valued his personal friendship and his steadfast personal support over many years. He was someone who I could go to for advice about anything and he’d give it with wisdom, humour and realism.

I have lost a great friend. Sandwell has lost one its great sons, and Birmingham has lost one of its great allies. We all feel lost today. The political and economic life of the West Midlands are also much the poorer for his passing. My thoughts and prayers are with Karen and the family: my heart goes out to them this Easter.

On behalf of Birmingham City Council and the citizens of Birmingham we extend our deepest sympathies to Darren’s family and the people of Sandwell.

Cllr Cooper was vice-chair of the shadow West Midlands combined authority. His bravery and skill in persuading sceptical Black Country councillors to throw their lot in with Birmingham and Tory-led Solihull should not be underestimated. The authority’s twitter feed said:

The thoughts of everyone @WestMids_CA are with the family of Cllr Darrren Cooper at this terribly sad time. We will miss him enormously.

Darren Cooper was a registered mental health nurse and the lead politician for the WMCA’s Mental Health Commission. The WMCA said he was “part of the negotiating team for the region’s proposed devolution deal with government and key to the agreement being the biggest in the country to date.”

Councillor Bob Sleigh, Chairman of the Shadow WMCA board, said:

I am so very sorry to hear of Darren’s sudden death. My heartfelt sympathies go out to his family and friends and to the people of Sandwell who have lost a tremendous Leader and advocate for their borough.

It was an honour to have someone of Darren’s calibre working alongside me as Vice Chair of the WMCA. He was a terrific man to have in the region’s corner and, although we were from different political parties, someone I knew I could trust and respect. As a tribute to Darren, it’s important that we continue to put any political differences to one side and make sure that the Combined Authority works for the greater good of the region and the people Darren was so committed to serving.

All the Leaders in the WMCA have lost first and foremost a friend but also a colleague, a champion for the West Midlands and one of life’s great characters.

Martin Reeves, Chief Executive of the shadow WMCA, said:

This is such a terrible shock and desperately sad news for Councillor Cooper’s family, friends and colleagues. Councillor Cooper was a force of nature, who had a great sense of purpose and spirit. His enthusiasm for the WMCA was infectious and it was a pleasure to work with him. We will miss him.

Another political friend, Labour MEP Siôn Simon, tweeted:

Such sad news abt Darren Cooper. A lovely man, a great public servant who for decades made a massive contribution to the community he loved.

Adrian Bailey, MP for West Bromwich West, said:

I am shocked and deeply saddened by this news.

I have known Darren for over 25 years, as a friend, council colleague and latterly, Council leader.

He had a passion for public service and demonstrated great skill as a politician. He has navigated Sandwell Council through a very difficult period, managing enforced economies but ensuring that they were fairly implemented and commanded public support. Labour’s strength on Sandwell Council is a reflection of his qualities as leader. I am sure he would have gone on to serve in even higher positions.

He will be greatly missed as a warm, caring individual who could have achieved even more for the Black Country community he loved.

My heartfelt condolences go to his family at what must be an incredibly difficult time for them.

John Spellar, MP for Warley, said:

He was a good friend and a stalwart of the Labour Party. He had not only made a big contribution as Leader of Sandwell but was starting to be a major figure in Local Government nationally. It is shocking that he has died so young.

Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North, said:

This is really dreadful news. It has come as a terrible shock and I feel so sorry for his family. He was a great public servant for the area in which he was born, grew up and loved so much, and for the wider West Midlands as well, and he did very important work in the Labour Party. He was great to work with, but was a great friend and a very nice guy too, giving me very valuable advice and real support – both as a Black Country MP and when I was regional minister. We’re all really going to miss him very much.

Cooper was chair of the Police and Crime Panel which oversees the Police and Crime Commissioner. West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said:

Darren Cooper cared deeply about the people of Sandwell and the West Midlands. His passing is both a shock and a terrible loss. He was a big personality who will be sorely missed. He was a friend and as chair of the West Midlands Police & Crime Panel gave me invaluable support in my role.

The chief executive of the WMPCC’s office Jonathan Jardine tweeted:

Saddened by death of @sandwellleader. He was intelligent, direct & had wry humour. His support as Chair of @WestMidsPCP will be much missed.

Picture courtesy of Jas Sansi.

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