Tributes paid to Lord Bill McKenzie who will be 'greatly missed by the people of Luton'

His political career spanned more than 40 years

Friday, 3rd December 2021, 11:25 am
Updated Friday, 3rd December 2021, 11:26 am

Tributes have been paid by Luton Council and local party leaders to one of the town's most ardent supporters and servants, Lord William “Bill” McKenzie who died yesterday (December 2).

In a local political career that spanned more than 40 years and later as holder of important government offices, a statement issued by Luton Council said his warm, approachable manner and dedication to Luton meant he secured a place of deep, lasting affection throughout the town.

A qualified account, who went on to become a partner of Price Waterhouse and later served as a consultant for several years in the Far East, his heart nevertheless remained in Luton where he continued to live with his wife, Diane.

Luton mourns loss of Lord Bill McKenzie

A member of the Labour party, Bill was first elected as a councillor on May 6 ,1976 and remained a member until 1992 after which he spent time in Hong Kong and Vietnam.

On his return in 1999 he was again elected to the council, serving another six years, including a period as Leader.

In 2003 he was elevated to the title of Lord McKenzie of Luton and was subsequently appointed to various positions: Under Secretary for Work and Pensions in 2007 and becoming the minister at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Despite his wider parliamentary commitments, Bill retained his interest in local issues. He was trustee of local charity, Noah Enterprise, which serves and supports the most vulnerable in society. His knowledge and experience was also greatly valued as he served as board member of Luton Airport from 1998 to 2020.

The council statement added: "Never one to hide behind his highly merited title, Lord McKenzie was the archetypal 'man of the people' – a faithful attendee at countless civic events and community gatherings throughout the town.

"Luton has lost a great friend and advocate and the council joins countless others across the town and country in extending our deepest condolences to his wife, Diane, wider family and friends."

Leader of the Council, Hazel Simmons, said: “It is with great sadness that I heard that Bill McKenzie passed away today. He was a colleague and friend over many years and a lifelong Labour member.

"He was a past Leader of the Council and very influential in the developments at our airport. My thoughts at this really sad time are with his wife Diane and his family and friends.”

David Franks, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I am really shocked to hear of Bill McKenzie’s death.

"My first thought is that I hope there is someone close by to support Diane, his wife. Bill and Diane worked hard for Luton and were a great team.

"Many a pint has been enjoyed debating the key issues of the day and I enjoyed working with Bill on a number of projects over the years.

"More recently, our interaction has been more likely to be a chat when we met in Sainsbury’s on a Saturday morning. I’ll certainly miss his big smile and his very lively sense of humour.”

Leader of the Conservatives, John Young, said “I was sad to hear of Bill Mckenzie’s death. I am sure family and friends will be consoling his wife Dianne.

"Being new to the council I only got to know him on the Airport Board where he was always kind and friendly to me. He will be greatly missed by the people of Luton.”