TRIBUTE has been paid to former Poole councillor Neil Sorton, who died last weekend, having served the community for more than 40 years.

He died at the age of 79, days before he was to have been proposed at full council as an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Poole.

A solicitor by profession, he was first elected nearly 50 years-ago, represented Oakdale for 29 years and Canford Cliffs for 16 years, with a gap from 1995 to 1999, before ill-health led him to stand down at May's general election.

His "utmost dedication" was praised by Poole Mayor, Cllr Ann Stribley, who has been a colleague on the council for many years.

"He was a man of great foresight and the highest integrity that it has been my privilege to know and I also particularly loved his deprecating and sometimes wicked sense of humour," she said.

She said his service to the community was unsurpassed.

He served on and then chaired the Dorset Pension Fund Committee, was a member of the Dorset Adoption Panel for many years, one of the first trustees of Poole Arts Centre (now Lighthouse) and became company secretary to its board of directors, meeting Princess Diana when she visited in 1988.

For some years he was leader of the Conservative group and was a member of Poole Council's cabinet from 2003 until he retired in May.

"With respect and agreement from across the chamber, Neil was about to be proposed for admission as an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Poole, in recognition of the eminent service he gave to the arts, the residents he served and to the wider community of Poole," said Cllr Stribley.

"Many of us are enriched by having known Neil and immensely saddened by his loss following a long illness bravely fought," she said.

His funeral service takes place at Canford Magna Church on Thursday December 17 at 1.30pm which will be attended by the Mayor. He leaves a wife Anita, two children and two step-children.