JEFF Ennis is the only person in Barnsley’s history to be named the leader of the council, the mayor and an MP - but he’s hung up his council hat after almost 50 years’ service. Chronicle chief reporter Jack Tolson spoke with the Grimethorpe stalwart about his love for horse racing, raising the age of tobacco sales and meeting famous stars like gardener Monty Don and boxer Anthony Joshua.

When Jeff Ennis was elected as a councillor in Barnsley in 1980 he was just 27 - and after 44 years’ service he decided to retire from his role of serving the borough.

Jeff first became a councillor in the 1970s on Brierley Town Council as a parish councillor - and that was his first step into the political landscape.

“It was the September by-election in 1980 when I became a Barnsley councillor,” he said.

“I was on the council until 1996.

“I was the deputy leader for seven years and the leader of the council for 18 months - current leader Sir Steve Houghton was my deputy at that time.

“I then became MP for Barnsley East, and then Barnsley East and Mexborough until 2010.

“I’m still the only person in Barnsley to have served as the council’s leader, an MP and the mayor - that’s something I’m very proud of.”

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Whilst standing as an MP, Jeff was influential in raising the age of sale of tobacco from 16 to 18 - something he says has saved thousands of people’s lives.

“One of the greatest achievements in my careers came in the House of Commons,” he said.

“I promoted that the age of sale for tobacco should be raised from 16 to 18.

“It took two years for the Labour government to agree this and then it became a part of the 2007 Health Act.

“I’m really proud of that because it’s saved people’s lives - it’s definitely extended how long people are living.”

Whilst campaigning to become an MP in 1996, the world-famous Brassed Off film saw its premiere take place in Barnsley.

In a stroke of genius it was decided that instead of having his own name on the campaign poster, they would use the slogan ‘Brassed Off With The Tories’.

“I’m from Grimethorpe - my grandad and dad worked in the pits,” he said.

“The powers that be decided that because Brassed Off had been so well-received they would cancel the Jeff Ennis poster and replaced with the Brassed Off With The Tories poster.

“Pete Postlethwaite, Mark Herman and Steve Abbott all came to support my campaign.

“I’m the only candidate in history to not have my name on the poster.

“It’s signed by those three and Tony Blair, and I’m planning to take it to The Antiques Roadshow later this year.”

After stepping down as an MP in 2010, Jeff took two years out before returning as a councillor in 2012.

He then became the Mayor of Barnsley in 2017 and whilst in that role he was awarded an OBE.

“I was notified that I was going to be made an OBE on my mother’s birthday, May 4,” he said.

“It was presented to me at Buckingham Palace by Prince Charles who is now the King.

“When you get presented with the medal, you stand in a line in alphabetical order.

“Stood next to me was gardener Monty Don and a few people down the line was Anthony Joshua.

“It was nice to be able to have a chat with them.

“I still keep an eye on them when I’m flicking through my TV.”

Jeff, a keen horse racing fan, said he’s standing down at the May local elections in a bid for new, young blood to be brought into the council chamber.

His plans are to spend more time with his family and work on his role as a trustee at the National Horse Racing College in Doncaster.

“I’ve been very lucky,” he said.

“I’m so proud that I’ve been able to represent Grimethorpe and its surrounding villages.

“Mining villages are unique - everyone is so proud to come from there.

“When I started on the council I was the youngest for seven years until Sir Steve was elected.

“It’s time to give someone else a chance.

“I’d like to see the age range come down - I still think there’s too many old people in the chamber.

“I’ve always been a horse racing fan because my dad used to work in the bookies.

“I’m a trustee at the National Horse Racing College and I’m going to spend some time there in retirement,

“I also want to just enjoy myself.

“I’m going to be spending some more time with my family.”