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A PASSIONATE children’s centre co-founder from Haslingden has been awarded an MBE.

Barry Payton, 66, visited Buckingham Palace yesterday ((FRI)) with his wife and four children to collect the honour for his services to children and families.

Mr Payton, who has lived in the Valley all his life, started Haslingden Community Link and Children’s Centre, in Bury Road, in 1997, using government funding and a Lottery grant.

The grandfather-of-nine then gradually grew the charity, starting out with just himself and one volunteer, to having 36 staff and a £1million annual turnover.

Mr Payton, who retired in March 2013, said he has no idea who suggested him for an MBE, but was extremely surprised and excited when he found out he would be receiving the honour.

He said: “I’ve always been passionate about childcare.

“I think I was put forward because I have always really cared about what we could, and should, do to help children get a better start in life, and raising those standards.

“Families need support in helping children get that.

“I’ve been lucky in having a strong family myself, and I’m so happy my family were all with me in London for this.”

Mr Payton worked for BT for 30 years, finally project managing for the telecoms company, before government funding became available to form a children’s centre.

Alongside a team of people, Mr Payton then set about convincing Lancashire County Council to allow them to turn an old church into a children’s centre and supply it with sufficient funding.

The centre now offers a number of services for families, including an outreach project.

He said: “We then turned an empty building into something worthwhile.”

In his retirement, Mr Payton continues to do volunteer work, including with Haslingden-based military charity, Veterans in Communities.

He said: “I like to keep involved and do anything that helps out other people.”

Mr Payton picked up his award at the same time as many others, including singer Katherine Jenkins.