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.