STALYBRIDGE is losing two of its political heavyweights as long-serving councillors Kevin Welsh and Basil Beeley are standing down at May’s elections.
Kevin Welsh is not standing for re-election after serving as a councillor in Stalybridge for 23 years.
But don’t rule a return in the future for the 52-year-old Labour politician who represents Stalybridge North.
Cllr Welsh, an electrical inspector employed by Manchester City Council, said: “I have always worked full-time while serving as a councillor, but as you get older it becomes more difficult.
“It is the right time for a break, but I would say never say never about a return at some stage in the future.”
Cllr Welsh was initially elected in the traditional Conservative Stalybridge South in 1995 but four years later switched to a vacant Stalybridge North seat.
He has also been a prominent figure on Tameside Council serving as deputy chair for leisure, executive member for neighbourhoods, chairman of three committees – planning, liquor licensing and place scrutiny panel.
Cllr Welsh was also chairman of the now disbanded Stalybridge District Assembly for 10 years.
He said: “It has been an absolute honour to represent my home town for Labour for 23 years.
“Stalybridge has changed incredibly. Back in 1995 hardly anyone lived in the town centre which isn’t the case today as there has been massive improvements.
“Longlands Mills was derelict but has now been turned into flats, a project many thought would never happen.
“Kieran Quinn (late executive leader of Tameside Council) and myself also stuck a deal with Urban Splash and there has also been incredible improvements on Ridge Hill and also to Stamford Park.
“On the downside we have lost a lot of manufacturing jobs since the 1990s like Delta Enfield Cables and IMI when people didn’t have to travel out of town to work.”
Cllr Welsh believes a bright future lies ahead, especially if Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham’s Town Centre Challenge helps provide regeneration.
But on a note of caution, he said: “I don’t want to raise expectations as there is no money available.
“We want to see more people living in the town centre which can have a big impact on the local economy.
“We need the right mixture and balance and it is also important to get manufacturing back in the Tame Valley.”
Cllr Welsh will still be involved with the local Labour group.
He says he was lucky to work with four council leaders – Roy Oldham, Kieron Quinn, Brenda Warrington and Colin Grantham – describing them all as “big political beasts”.
Cllr Welsh, who went to St Peter’s School, Stalybridge, and All Saints, Dukinfield, says his best time was when he served with fellow Stalybridge councillors, the late Bernard Walsh and his friend George Roberts.
The Labour candidate selected to fight Cllr Welsh’s seat in May is father-of-two Sam Gosling who is a local Labour Party activist.
Meanwhile Basil Beeley has decided, at the age of 82, the time is right to step aside.
“You have to bear in mind the term of office is a further four years and I am not getting any younger when it comes to going out leafletting and attending meetings,” he explained.
Cllr Beeley, who lives off Woodlands Road, has represented Stalybridge South for 12 years, first winning a seat aged 70.
He said: “I had been asked to stand before, but didn’t have the time to devote due to working.
“But my wife Alma and myself have been involved with the Conservative party for 40 years and I have been chairman of the ward branch and deputy chair of the Stalybridge and Hyde executive.”
Cllr Beeley has also been active on Tameside Council, serving as deputy chair of the licensing panel for taxi drivers, on the liquor licensing panel and scrutiny panel.
He said: “I will miss being a councillor as I never played golf.
“It will be strange opening my diary after May and wondering what to do the rest of the week.”
Cllr Beeley says he has made good friends on both sides of the council chamber.
“Both parties join together each year to run the Christmas party for pensioners. It is great that we all get on well together,” he said.
Cllr Beeley’s parent came from Hadfield but he was born in Goldthorp, a mining village near Doncaster.
He has lived in Stalybridge since the age of 30, beginning work as a typewriter and dictaphone engineer for Remington Rand.
Cllr Beeley then worked in the carpet trade before opening a wallpaper and paint store on Melbourne Street which he had for 15 years.
When the shop closed when was aged 63 he went to work for a friend in his wholesale wallpaper business for a further seven years.
Cllr Beeley, who will still be involved with his local Conservative branch, is a lifelong Manchester United fan.
He recalls living in West Gorton when United were still playing at City after Old Trafford was bombed during the Second World War, “I would go to watch United one week, City the next, something many did in those days, though I was always a Red,” he said.
Liam Billington has been selected by the Conservative party to contest Stalybridge South in May.