BARNSLEY’S longest-serving councillor - who has clocked up almost 50 years’ service - has announced his retirement due to his ongoing battle with cancer.

Coun Charlie Wraith, a former Mayor of Barnsley who represents the Cudworth ward, will not be standing in May’s local elections, he announced this week.

First elected in 1974, Charlie has served on numerous committees and eight governing bodies including the council’s licensing board for 12 years.

Having fought prostate cancer - in which he subsequently appealed to Barnsley men to get checked out in a bid to save lives - he has been receiving treatment for terminal oesophagus cancer.

His retirement - which he told the Chronicle was a reluctant decision due to his quest to reach the half-century mark - was forced by his illness, leading tributes to be paid to his ‘heroic’ service to the community.

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“As the longest continuous serving member of Barnsley Council, I’m ‘father of the council’ and I’d like to thank all who have given me the privilege of being a ward councillor by voting for me over the years.

“I had hoped to do 50 years of service but unfortunately it’s not going to be.

“Many volunteers have done a marvellous job over the years and my grateful thanks go to them, as well as council officers and ward colleagues for their invaluable support.

“It has been my life for the past 48 years and there’s been so many highlights, and I was honoured to have my beloved late wife, Marilyn, beside me for the majority of those.

“My proudest moment was receiving my MBE from the Queen in 2013 but the wonderful people I’ve met and the places I’ve been all stand out.

“Will I miss it? You bet your life I will - it’s a sad time for me.”

During his time as a councillor, Cudworth saw a number of improvements, with Birkwood and Churchfield schools extended, and a new school, Cherrydale, built on Royston Road.

A new fire station was built at West Green, as well as Cudworth and West Green bypass being constructed, and a large building containing 36 start-up units for businesses was created on Snydale Road.

Many projects and various committees were supported with grants, including the haven for wildlife, Carlton Marsh nature reserve, which boasts well over 100 species of bird, an abundance of wildflowers, and many species of butterfly.

All parks in Cudworth were also improved under Coun Wraith’s guidance, along with a new health centre on Carlton Street and three blocks of flats - Somerset Court, Rose Tree Court and Westhaven were replaced with bungalows.

Coun Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council and a fellow Cudworth ward member, added: “Charlie’s contribution to Cudworth and Barnsley has been outstanding - 48 years of public service is a remarkable achievement.

“Charlie’s knowledge and expertise on both planning and licensing services in particular will be greatly missed, as will his work in the local community.

“His retirement is a huge loss to the council and to Cudworth and I shall miss his good counsel.

“This is not the first battle Charlie has faced over the years, and I wish him well for the future.

“The commitment and determination he has shown in public life will, I am sure, serve him well in his current health challenges.

“A huge thanks to Charlie on behalf of Cudworth and Barnsley is well-deserved.”