New Year’s Honours: Recognition for long serving public figures

Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton.
Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton.
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COMMUNITY champions and local political heavyweights spearhead an impressive list of individuals from Yorkshire who are celebrated by The Queen in her New Year’s Honours.

Opposition chief whip Rosie Winterton has been awarded a damehood for political and parliamentary service, having served since 1997 as the Labour Party’s MP for Doncaster Central.

John Weighell, former leader of North Yorkshire County Council.

John Weighell, former leader of North Yorkshire County Council.

The former leader of North Yorkshire County Council, John Weighell, receives an OBE, and so too does the former Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield.

Councillor Wakefield, who is chairman of the transport committee at West Yorkshire Combined Authority, was first elected to Leeds City Council in 1988 and receives an OBE for political service and services to local government.

County Councillor John Weighell, who stepped down as leader of North Yorkshire County Council in May after almost 14 years, continues to represent Bedale on the county council, and has received his award for his achievements during his years of public service.

He described the role of council leader as one of the best jobs in local government, adding: “It’s humbling to have this honour bestowed on me, but I hope what the honour really recognises is the success story of North Yorkshire. I have done my best to contribute to this over the years, but it is really the story of the efforts of many people, my council colleagues, officers and the people of North Yorkshire.”

He said it was his experience as a school governor and a volunteer in youth work, and his respect for the local education authority, that initially steered him towards becoming a county councillor in 1993.

Mr Weighell said: “I tried to run my leadership in a different, quiet way. I have met far too many leaders who consider themselves to be the boss, even some who consider themselves to be dictators. It is not like that at all. It is about being captain of a team. You don’t necessarily need to be the best player, leadership is about surrounding yourself with the best people.”

In South Yorkshire, there is an MBE for Zlakha Ahmed, the chief executive of women’s rights organisation Apna Haq, for services to women’s rights and community cohesion in Rotherham.

Ms Ahmed, 52, founded the charity 21 years ago when she became determined to address what she saw as a lack of support for women suffering from domestic violence.

Over the last two decades, she is credited with having particularly affect the lives of thousands of Black Asian and minority ethnic women and girls locally by improving their access to safe accommodation, education, legal advice and social activities to prevent isolation.

Her project, which supports 45 women each week, has resulted in more women contacting the police and disclosing abuse, and since 2011 she has worked tirelessly to highlight the sexual exploitation of girls in Rotherham.

“It’s really good to know that the work I’m so passionate about has been recognised,” she said. “It’s a missing voice, that of black Muslim women, and I’m grateful I have had the opportunity to do this work.”

As a member of the Domestic Violence Working Group for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Ms Ahmed has also contributed towards their guidance aimed to help identify, prevent and reduce domestic violence and abuse, in health and social care.

Two military men with decades of services to the Reserve Forces’ & Cadets’ Association for Yorkshire and The Humber have been honoured.

Retired Col Carron Snagge, chief executive of RFCA, receives an OBE in recognition of his work, while David Davies, chairman of the organisation’s regional employer engagement group receives an MBE.

Describing his honour as “a wonderful surprise”, Mr Davies said: “Cadets and adult instructors, reservists and ex-regulars all have had experience and training which transfer directly into the workplace.

“The cost of similar training in the commercial world puts it out of reach for many employers.”