Civic leaders have paid tribute to former Witney mayor, Chris Holliday, who has died.

Mr Holliday represented the Witney East ward after being elected on to the town council in 2013.

He served as Mayor in 2016/17.

Posting on social media, Witney Town Council said: "It is with great sadness that we learned earlier today of the death of former Mayor of Witney, Chris Holliday.

"Councillors and staff at Witney Town Council remember his total commitment to all that he undertook, his unfailing sense of humour and that above all, Chris stayed true to his maxim, ‘It’s All About People’.

“Our thoughts are with Lisa and the girls at this very sad time.”

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Andrew Coles, Vice-Chair of West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “Chris was a plain-speaking, proud Yorkshireman who certainly left his mark on our town. Whilst we differed politically, our shared love of everything Witney, and hedgehogs, brought us together.

“He and I both stood for the same district council seat in 2016 and he was the most decent and worthy opponent I’ve ever been on a ballot paper with.

“He also deserves praise for his handling of the EU referendum during his tenure as Witney Mayor. He was determined, as mayor, to keep the office free from political controversy on such a divisive and contentious issue. He only publicly stated his own personal view after he had handed over the chains of office.


Witney Gazette:

“My heartfelt condolences go out to Lisa and the girls at this very sad time.”

Mr Holliday was born in Scarborough in 1951 and raised in the market town of Masham in North Yorkshire.

After school he enrolled in the Army, where he served for a number of years in the Royal Engineers.

At the end of his time in the military, Mr Holliday went into construction, working in Luton for T and E Neville Ltd as a contracts maintenance manager, moving to Thame in the early 1990s – his first foray into Oxfordshire.

In 2001 he married his wife Lisa in Banbury. The couple have three daughters Siobhan, Sionainne and Sinead.

Mr Holliday worked as a construction site manager, until a serious accident on a site in Oxford wreaked havoc on his professional life.

The family lived in Chipping Norton for a few years before moving to Madley Park in Witney in 2005.

His engagement with the community grew there when he joined a residents association in Madley Park.

Despite having said there was ‘no chance on earth’ he would ever venture into local politics, Mr Holliday was asked to stand for a seat on the town council.

In 2013, he won the Witney East ward.

“Those early days were a fantastic learning curve,” he told the Oxford Mail. “To sit and watch how the councillors work.

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“It’s not like running a business. The whole structure is different. I had always been interested in community, but there’s no use thinking this is what we should be doing without the vehicle to do it.”

A short while later, Mr Holliday was asked to be the deputy mayor and in 2016 he became the mayor.

“For a Yorkshire boy done good it’s not bad,” he quipped at the time.

Mr Holliday introduced a complete change in structure at the council.

He changed the council’s model so that Toby Morris became the council leader while he became mayor and chairman.

He explained: “I thought that politics should be taken out of the mayor.

“The new structure frees the mayor up to meet people, deal with local businesses and hear the concerns of residents. The mayor shouldn’t be sat inside dealing with the budget, they should be out there in the town.”

Mr Holliday invited a group of seven-year-olds from Witney Community Primary School to sit in the council chambers where a little town meeting was mocked up.

He was also deeply impressed when around 2,000 people from the town attended the Remembrance Sunday event, which involved 500 children representing a range of local youth groups.

He said: “The future of Witney is in our schools and in these strong, vibrant youth groups. If I don’t take an interest in then why should they take an interest in the town?”

Mr Holliday, who was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, selected DITTO (Doing it Together to Overcome) as his mayoral charity, regularly spending time with the vulnerable and disabled people supported by the group.

His resounding message was that his aim was to reach out to everybody in the community, no matter what their background or political affiliation.

“I don’t get involved in politics which makes me cross party. I can sit down with anybody and have an open, honest chat," he said.

“The mayor should be accessible to everyone, regardless of age, politics or whatever – everybody in the community.”



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