Glowing tributes paid as former Lord Mayor Bill Baker dies

thisisoxfordshire: Bill Baker Bill Baker

FORMER Oxford City Council leader Bill Baker has died aged 78.

Mr Baker, also a former Lord Mayor of the city, died on Monday following a long illness.

The Labour councillor led the authority from 1993 to 1996, and was deputy leader from 2004 to 2006.

During his 1997/1998 year of Lord Mayor he awarded the Freedom of the City to Nelson Mandela, in June 1997.

He joined the council in May 1986 when he represented south ward, to 2002 then Iffley Fields to 2006, the year he retired.

The father-of-three grew up in Donnington, worked at the car plant in Cowley for 28 years and then as a groundsman for Oxford University.

Labour council leader Bob Price said: “Bill will be sadly missed by the many people who he came into contact with during a long and very rich life of service to others.’’ Labour Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said Mr Baker made a “huge and distinguished contribution to Oxford”.

He said: “He had a heart of gold and we shall really miss him.”

Mr Baker lived with his wife Vicky in Meadow Lane and leaves his wife and sons Paul, Mark and Adam.

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5:11pm Wed 22 Jan 14

colinharry says...

RIP bill................
...
RIP bill................ ... colinharry

5:14pm Wed 22 Jan 14

Jules555 says...

You were a true credit to the Donnington community, it will never be the same without you around looking after the local people. RIP Bill xx
You were a true credit to the Donnington community, it will never be the same without you around looking after the local people. RIP Bill xx Jules555

1:24am Tue 28 Jan 14

JessCarr says...

Someone's just emailed me to tell me of this sad news. Funnily enough I was watching Benefits Street earlier (before hearing fo Bill's death) and, when I saw the message on Fungi's front door ("No junk mail" etc) it reminded me of the first time I met Bill, in 1994 - just after I moved into Freelands Road.

The previous tenants had put a snooty notice (which I had clocked but hadn't bothered to read) on the letterbox saying "No hawkers, no free advice", and one day there was a knock and there was Bill, saying "No free advice? Then I shall have to charge you for what I am about to say!"

This was typical of Bill's sense of humour - he was a master of sharp one-liner gags like these.

My next encounter was when I was writing for Oxyacetylene just before the start of the millennium, when Bill had a go at the squatters on Donnington Bridge Road.

The great run-in was celebrated by Oxy with the title "Bakin' Bill's Bigotry", but Bill was never frightened of a fight or of controversy - some he won and some he most emphatically did not - and in the end, although I have a great deal of sympathy for the squatters in this instance, some shocking properties were demolished and replaced.

Then, finally, years later, I had much to do with Bill when the Donnington Tenants' and Residents' Association got under way.

Bill and I met up on numerous occasions. He was the first to contribute to one of the DNTRA's inaugural community events, from the Donnington Community Centre. He was a can-do man, and proud (as am I) to be emphatically Old Labour and say so in public, before New Labour was so badly tarnished, when admitting to being O.L. was tantamount to going about with a t-shirt proclaiming "What Would Josef Do?" accompanying a picture of The Man of Steel.

He wasn't a Stalinist, of course, nor anything like. He was an exceptionally hard-working true man of the people, who got stuck right in there and did not hide behind email, letters, press releases, or anything of that kind.

When the hedges in the road where I lived were getting out of hand - almost certainly a dodge being employed by the Rachmanesque owner/landlord who wanted to grub them up - he was round there waving the threat of an injunction. The hedges were returned to their former sculptural glory in a trice.

He was always there for whoever wanted to see him, and although there were those who lived out their lives dumping their self-pity, neighbourhood feuds, or chronic paranoia on his doorstep, he never turned them away and was always there with solid, practical advice, if it could possibly be given. Bill was tough love incarnate.

He had a finger in many pies and was (as a politician should be) of an inquisitive, even nosy cast of character. Local politics at the grass-roots is not for the lily-livered. It needs presence, gumption and guts. Love him or loathe him, Bill Baker had the lot in spades.

In the classic proletarian traditions of Town he served his labouring time working for Lord Nuffield and Gown, as you see. He was born (so he told me) in the house next door to the one in which he lived and, I presume, died.

To quote another socialist: well done, thou good and faithful servant.
Someone's just emailed me to tell me of this sad news. Funnily enough I was watching Benefits Street earlier (before hearing fo Bill's death) and, when I saw the message on Fungi's front door ("No junk mail" etc) it reminded me of the first time I met Bill, in 1994 - just after I moved into Freelands Road. The previous tenants had put a snooty notice (which I had clocked but hadn't bothered to read) on the letterbox saying "No hawkers, no free advice", and one day there was a knock and there was Bill, saying "No free advice? Then I shall have to charge you for what I am about to say!" This was typical of Bill's sense of humour - he was a master of sharp one-liner gags like these. My next encounter was when I was writing for Oxyacetylene just before the start of the millennium, when Bill had a go at the squatters on Donnington Bridge Road. The great run-in was celebrated by Oxy with the title "Bakin' Bill's Bigotry", but Bill was never frightened of a fight or of controversy - some he won and some he most emphatically did not - and in the end, although I have a great deal of sympathy for the squatters in this instance, some shocking properties were demolished and replaced. Then, finally, years later, I had much to do with Bill when the Donnington Tenants' and Residents' Association got under way. Bill and I met up on numerous occasions. He was the first to contribute to one of the DNTRA's inaugural community events, from the Donnington Community Centre. He was a can-do man, and proud (as am I) to be emphatically Old Labour and say so in public, before New Labour was so badly tarnished, when admitting to being O.L. was tantamount to going about with a t-shirt proclaiming "What Would Josef Do?" accompanying a picture of The Man of Steel. He wasn't a Stalinist, of course, nor anything like. He was an exceptionally hard-working true man of the people, who got stuck right in there and did not hide behind email, letters, press releases, or anything of that kind. When the hedges in the road where I lived were getting out of hand - almost certainly a dodge being employed by the Rachmanesque owner/landlord who wanted to grub them up - he was round there waving the threat of an injunction. The hedges were returned to their former sculptural glory in a trice. He was always there for whoever wanted to see him, and although there were those who lived out their lives dumping their self-pity, neighbourhood feuds, or chronic paranoia on his doorstep, he never turned them away and was always there with solid, practical advice, if it could possibly be given. Bill was tough love incarnate. He had a finger in many pies and was (as a politician should be) of an inquisitive, even nosy cast of character. Local politics at the grass-roots is not for the lily-livered. It needs presence, gumption and guts. Love him or loathe him, Bill Baker had the lot in spades. In the classic proletarian traditions of Town he served his labouring time working for Lord Nuffield and Gown, as you see. He was born (so he told me) in the house next door to the one in which he lived and, I presume, died. To quote another socialist: well done, thou good and faithful servant. JessCarr

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