TRIBUTES have been paid to a “people’s champion” who died suddenly on Wednesday morning.

Anson Westbrook was a former Liberal Democrat councillor for Winton in Bournemouth, the organiser of the annual Winton Carnival and chair of Winton Forum.

Described as an “outspoken character,” he was a Bournemouth councillor between 2003 and 2007, when he held the position of chair of licensing and represented Bournemouth on the Dorset Police Authority and Dorset Fire Authority.

He lost his seat in the Conservative landslide of 2007 but continued to campaign tirelessly on the issue of student houses in Winton, even travelling to Westminster to press ministers on the issue.

Mel Bray, his colleague on the Winton carnival committee, said: “He was a fighter and people knew he would champion their cause. He was a doughty and resolute campaigner in the community.

“Not many people knew that he was once in the SAS, which explains why he was such a tough fighter for ordinary people in the face of authority.”

Mr Westbrook, a father and grandfather in his early 70s who lived with his wife Ros in Hankinson Road, suffered a stroke during an operation last week. Initially he was thought to have been recovering well. However he died suddenly on Wednesday morning.

Pat Oakley, who worked alongside him in Winton, said a walk down Wimborne Road with Mr Westbrook would take an hour, because he was constantly stopped by residents.

“He was a really big well-known character locally. Genuinely, he cared about his local environment and the community in Winton. He was so generous with his time.”

Cllr John Beesley, the Conservative leader of Bournemouth council, said: “It’s very sad news. I knew him for quite a long time and he was somebody I always had a lot of respect for.

“Certainly, even when he’s not been on the council he’s done a great deal of work in the community and he’s always put his heart and soul into it.”

And Independent Cllr Ron Whittaker said: “He was a champion, especially on the issue of HMOs. He was an independent thinking person who had the interests of the community at heart.”