EMOTIONAL tributes were paid to Barnsley’s longest-serving councillor - who is stepping down in May due to ill health - at a special meeting yesterday.

Coun Charlie Wraith MBE, a former Mayor of Barnsley who represents the Cudworth ward, was elected in 1974 but is battling terminal oesophagus cancer and will retire after 49 years’ service.

He received a distinguished service award at Barnsley Town Hall - the first ever given by the council - and was praised by his colleagues for his dedication to Cudworth and the borough.

Charlie, who received his MBE from the late Queen Elizabeth II in 2013, ranked yesterday’s award as one of his proudest moments.

“It’s always been said that a week is a long time in politics, but I can definitely go one step further and say 50 years is, too,” he told the meeting.

“But it’s been a privilege - thanks to the people of Cudworth who’ve voted for me on many occasions, I’ve had great memories and you can bet I’ll miss it.”

Sir Steve Houghton, leader of the council and a colleague of Charlie’s for 34 years, added: “It is a remarkable achievement and there’s not much Charlie hasn’t been involved in on this council.

“He was here at the beginning when the council formed and we’re grateful to him - he’s handled everything with grace, dignity, integrity and stubbornness, occasionally.

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“In the past he’s had a stroke, bowel cancer, prostate cancer and now oesophagus cancer, but he’s always come back - he’s never lost his faith and is hugely respected.

“For 34 years I have been lucky enough to be his colleague and he’s someone who’s encouraged, questioned and challenged me.

“He’s godfather to my son and a true family friend - he deserves every accolade and he’s always put Cudworth and Barnsley first.”

Coun Chris Lamb, the council’s deputy leader, said Charlie transcended political allegiances and was respected by everyone in the council.

“I’d chaired the panel meeting which put Charlie forward for the distinguished service award, the first one this council’s ever awarded.

“King Charles I, the King of Cudworth, is recognised and respected by all colleagues, irrelevant of the parties they represent, and his service to the public is second to none.”