A LONG-STANDING councillor described as a “real champion of Andover” has died aged 83.

Rodney Bailey died peacefully on January 14, and tributes have since been pouring in for the Liberal Democrat member of Test Valley Borough Council who served the town for nearly three decades.

From 1983 to 2011, the former RAF man represented Andover’s St Mary’s ward, and served as Test Valley mayor for 1997/98.

On his retirement, the Corunna Main resident was made an honorary alderman to the council, in recognition of the “eminent services he rendered to the people of Test Valley” through his duties as a councillor.

He was also a trustee for charity Neighbourcare.

Friend, colleague, and former North West Hampshire Liberal Democrat leader Len Gates said: “Rod was our most senior and most experienced councillor and an inspiration to all who worked with him.

“He was much more than a colleague, he was a friend and confidante and a perfect example of how to be a good councillor.

“A real gentleman with an exemplary record of attendance at meetings, an encyclopedic knowledge and wry sense of humour, he taught me and many others how to campaign and work to get the best for local residents.

“Rod and Sheelah [his wife] were always ready to help, support, and welcome into their home, councillors, campaigners and party members. He was real champion for Andover and its residents.

“Rod will be sadly missed and impossible to replace, but never, ever, forgotten.”

The civic figure leaves behind three sons, nine grandchildren and soon-to-be eight grandchildren, who remember him as a “loving, funny, kind and considerate family man.”

Son Martin said: “Dad was always concerned about his family, making sure everyone was happy and secure.

“Having served in the RAF he loved his time working at Middle Wallop Air Museum as a tour guide.”

Alderman Bailey would also visit his youngest son Steve and family living in New Zealand, and the family said they will have a steak and cheese pie in his honour- one of Rod’s favourite things on his visits.

Leader of the borough council Councillor Phil North also personally paid tribute to the colleague on social media, who he said “never let party politics get in the way”.

He added: “I feel privileged to have been on the council for his final term. I’ll always be grateful for the times we spent at councillors’ surgery on a Saturday morning as he imparted his wisdom to me.”

On behalf of the council, Cllr North said: “Alderman Bailey dedicated almost three decades to serving his community and made a huge contribution to the borough. On behalf of everyone at Test Valley Borough Council, I send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Alderman Bailey’s funeral was held at Basingstoke Crematorium on Friday, January 25, as a family occasion at the request of his wife Sheelah, who also died recently.

At the funeral it was read: “Our world is now a better place because of Rod and the legacy that he has left us with through touching our lives in a truly special way.”