Margaret Bates

Margaret Bates
Margaret Bates
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MARGARET Bates, who has died aged 69, was introduced to politics by her father who was a miner at Gomersal colliery.

This was the source of a great pride when she was elected mayor of Kirklees in 2002. “Who’d have thought it. A miner’s daughter from Batley ending up as mayor of Kirklees!” she said at the time.

Her delight at being elected mayor was increased by the fact that she was the first woman Conservative to hold that position.

Born and brought up in Batley, she was the youngest of three sisters. Their father George Gomersall – his surname a striking coincidence - was a Conservative supporter, and the family was accustomed to discussing the issues of the day around the kitchen table. There she learnt to express and defend her opinions.

She went to Princess Royal School, and was in a party from the school taken to Batley Town Hall to hear an address by the mayor.

Afterwards, she told her friends she would like to do his job one day, but that looked unlikely when at 15 she left school and got a job in the local Co-operative store, working behind the counter in the chemist section.

Other jobs followed, and always her interest in local politics remained.

In 1967 she married Michael Bates, a builder and bricklayer, and it would be 20 years before she won a seat on Kirklees Metropolitan District Council as a Conservative.

That same year - 1987 - she attended a constituency surgery held by Elizabeth Peacock, the Conservative MP for Batley and Spen, and she so impressed the MP that she invited her to work for her as a constituency assistant.

The two women worked together for 10 years, becoming firm friends.

Mrs Bates represented Spen, Birstall, Birkenshaw and Liversedge wards on Kirklees Council, and in 2004 was re-elected to the Gomersal ward.

From the outset, she took particular interest in the welfare of the elderly, and was the cabinet member for social services.

Early on there had been a hiatus after her husband was involved in a car accident, suffering head injuries and she put her public duties on hold until he was able to cope again.

In 2003, the late John Lyles, then Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, appointed her to the position of Deputy Lieutenant.

She was a governor of Batley Grammar School and a patron of the Batley, Dewsbury and District Society for the Blind.

Mrs Bates enjoyed the theatre and she liked reading – local history her particular interest – but these were only occasional indulgencies because her private life was all-but non-existent. Never off duty, was she always available to people wanting advice or needing help. If her door bell wasn’t ringing, the phone was - and often at the same time.

Always mindful of how she looked, she took care over her appearance, and was comfortable in any company.

On the council she was a formidable advocate, her tenacity and sympathetic nature evident whenever she was acting on someone else’s behalf. She was unyielding, spoke her mind – no one could doubt her opinion on any given matter – and had an irreverent, surprising sense of humour which she brought to bear when sheer forcefulness might only provoke a resistance to match it.

Lately her health was declining, and conscious that she could no longer represent her ward as effectively and tirelessly as had been her custom, last year she resigned from the council.

She is survived by her husband Michael and their son Charles.