Former Kemspton Mayor and Labour councillor, Kay Burley, has been made an Honorary Alderwoman in recognition of her 50 years of service to local authorities.
And she thanked the people of Kempston for “putting their trust in me”.
At a ceremony held in the Council Chamber at Borough Hall on Sunday (19 November), Kay was honoured for her dedication and decades of public service which saw her widely respected both inside and outside the council chamber.
Kay’s political career began in her early 20s when she was first elected to Kempston Urban District Council.
Following local government re-organisation in the 1970s, Kay joined the merged Bedford Borough Council and after some time she moved to Bedfordshire County Council where she spent 25 years and was Chair in 1994/95.
After the abolition of the County Council, Kay rejoined Bedford Borough Council in 2019. In recent years she was Chair of the Environment & Sustainability Overview and Scrutiny Committee and a member of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Kay was a long-standing member of Kempston Town Council and a past Mayor. She was also the Town Council Leader until her retirement in May 2023.
Councillor Carl Meader, Leader of Bedford Borough Labour Group, described Kay as the ‘backbone’ of the group of Labour Councillors and the local Labour Party.
“I have nothing but total admiration for Kay,” he said.
“She has been a good friend and on numerous occasions offered good and valid advice and always steered me and others in the right direction.
“Kay has been the backbone of the Town Council, of Branch meetings, school governors, and more recently the Bedford Borough Labour Group, and that is just in the time I’ve known her.
“New councillors have had the benefit of her guidance and support, which I know they have really appreciated.”
Cllr Meader said that since Kay stepped down as a councillor she has been “truly missed”.
“That said, she deserves a rest and I’m sure she’ll be happy to wind down and find other things to do, although I still hope to see her at branch meetings to keep us all on our toes.
“If anybody deserves the Honorary Alderwoman title it is Kay. Well done Kay, we all think the world of you.”
Deputy Labour Group Leader Sue Oliver said that, along with former councillor Shan Hunt, Kay was a “stalward of the local political scene”.
“Kay taught me a great deal about how to campaign effectively when I first got involved with Kempston Labour Party in 1985,” said Sue.
“She has always been very generous with her time and advice as a mentor and role model to countless party activists.
“When I eventually joined Kay on Kempston Town Council and when she was once again elected to the Borough Council, I was able to witness first-hand her impressive knowledge of how local government works.
“Kay has been a true representative of the residents she was elected to serve over the course of half a century, while always remaining loyal to her Labour values, she thoroughly deserves this award.”
Accepting the award, Kay thanked the people of Kempston for putting their trust in her and hoped they would continue to support her Labour colleagues.
“Thank you all for turning out on a damp and grey November Sunday afternoon to be here with me today,” she said.
“Thanks to my family for supporting me, they never knew what it was like to have a parent not involved in the council, and I was often out at evening meetings.
“Thanks also to the council officers who worked so hard to organise this event. I am proud to have represented a diversity of Kempston residents and tried to make a difference over the years. I’ve made many good friends.”