Tributes have been paid to former senior councillor and community stalwart Mick Salih.
Mick, who represented Norton & Bradeley on Stoke-on-Trent City Council for 16 years, died at the Royal Stoke University Hospital on Friday, at the age of 71.
The former miner served as a cabinet member and Labour group leader during a tumultuous time in the authority’s history, which saw the move to unitary status, the introduction, and later abolition, of the elected mayor system, together with numerous political shifts.
A self-described ‘old school’ Labour man, Mick followed his father into the mines at the age of 21, working at Norton, Florence and Wolstanton collieries until 1993.
That was the year he was first elected as a Labour councillor, representing the Norton area where he lived his whole life.
Mick, who was known for being blunt and straight-talking, became the authority’s economic development chairman, and later cabinet member for economic development.
He also served as a member of Staffordshire Police Authority and North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership.
In 2002 he was elected leader of the Labour group, after the party lost control of the city council for the first time. Mick was sceptical of the elected mayor system, introduced later that year, and he would go on to clash with mayors Mike Wolfe and Mark Meredith.
Labour regained its majority on the council under his leadership, only to lose it again in the 2006 elections, when Mick lost his own seat. He later left the Labour Party, having criticised the direction it had taken under Tony Blair.
Mick regained his Norton & Bradeley seat in the 2008 elections, this time as an independent, and he would go on to form the Community Voice group with four other non-aligned members. He would lose his seat again in 2011, bringing to an end his time in local politics.
But Mick remained active in the community, fighting to save Norton Community Centre in 2012. He was also a member of Norton Residents’ Association, where his wife Ann served as chairwoman.
Stoke-on-Trent Lord Mayor Jackie Barnes paid tribute to Mick on behalf of the authority.
She said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of former councillor Mick Salih. He had been a vocal and colourful character in the council chamber who fought passionately for his community and for the city.
“A former miner, he was a champion of working people. He was first elected as a Labour councillor in 1993, serving his local community in Norton and Bradeley.
“He served on the authority through transformation changes, as we moved to a unitary authority, and during the time that we had an elected mayor.
“In his first spell as a councillor he served between 1993-2006, and then again for a second period between 2008-2012. Our thoughts are with Mr Salih’s family at this time.”
City councillors who served alongside Mick paid tribute to their former colleage.
Current Labour group leader Mohammed Pervez said: “I am saddened to hear that former city councillor Mick Salih has passed away. My thoughts and sympathies are with his family.
“Mick was an extremely vocal councillor in his days and worked tirelessly to support residents. I will miss bumping into him at Morrisons.”
City Independents group leader Ann James said: “It’s very sad news. Mick always represented the people of Stoke-on-Trent and his ward to the best of his ability.
“I always got on well with Mick, when we weren’t battling in the council chamber.”
Mick leaves behind his wife Ann and children Alison, Craig and Neil. His family have asked for donations to UHNM Charity Ward 201 in lieu of flowers.