Local delight in honours list

CHEERS: Easington Colliery community activist George Ottowell has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List for his services to his community
CHEERS: Easington Colliery community activist George Ottowell has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List for his services to his community

THE former agent of Prime Minister Tony Blair, the chief executive of a hospital trust and an Easington Colliery community stalwart are all celebrating after being named on the Queen’s New Year honours list.

Former long-serving Labour party councillor John Burton, chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust Alan Foster, and 88-year-old George Ottowell will all receive the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Dad-of-one Mr Ottowell, who lives in Easington Colliery with wife, Elizabeth, 87, is a former chairman of the Easington Miners’ Welfare and the residents’ association.

The former safety officer at the Easington pit held a meeting every single week for 12 consecutive years as he campaigned for development in the village.

Mr Ottowell was also part of the rescue service, spending 10 days searching and working to save lives in the aftermath of the 1951 pit explosion, which killed 81 miners and two rescuers.

After discovering he was to receive the MBE, Mr Ottowell, a dad of Peter, 57, told the Mail: “I am very proud, it was an extremely pleasant surprise.

“I like to think I helped to get things moving in Easington and to receive this honour is fantastic recognition.”

John Burton described his “honour” at being included on the list and dedicated it to his late wife, Lily, who sadly passed away in November 2011.

With 30 years’ experience, Mr Burton was once the longest-serving district councillor in the country and was the constituency agent of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who represented the Sedgefield constituency from 1983 until standing down as Prime Minister in 2007.

In fact, Mr Burton helped Tony Blair into his very first political seat and the former PM lived with him and Lily for a short time as he started out in Sedgefield.

But as well as his national political work, the dad-of-two has always dedicated time and effort to the local community and still remains a member of the Trimdon Parish Council, where he lives, a church warden at St Mary Magdalene Church, in the village and the Chair of Governors at Trimdon Village Community Infant School.

He said: “It’s a huge honour, the very name says that.

“And it is as much for Lily as it is for me, she helped me with absolutely everything from working in Tony Blair’s office to the parish council.”

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Alan Foster, spoke of his “delight” at being named on the list.

Mr Foster was appointed in September 2007 and was the first chief executive of an acute and integrated NHS trust brought about by the transfer of community services from two primary care trusts.

He said: “I’m honoured and delighted to receive this award, which is a reflection of the work done across the trust to consistently perform well and transform health services in the community, in hospital and by being determined to build a new state of the art hospital, offering leading edge facilities for future generations.”