A FORMER council leader has retired from his role leading the Church of England's social conscience in Lancashire.

The Rev. Canon Ed Saville has spearheaded Diocese of Blackburn initiatives ranging from improving housing through tackling poverty and racial injustice to highlighting the menace of modern day slavery.

Canon Savile shocked his Labour group on Hyndburn Council in 1987 when he resigned to train as an Anglican priest.

He arrived with wife Pam in Accrington in the1970s to work at the town’s St Christopher’s School.

Rev Saville then joined Accrington and Rossendale College to lecture in maths and computing before being elected as a councillor and becoming council leader.

Of his decision to take orders, he said: “There was no Damascus road blinding flash. It was more like a constant nagging at my conscience.”

Born in Davyhulme, he trained as a teacher at Wakefield’s Bretton Hall College where he met Pam. They have two sons, Richard and David.

After being ordained, the Rev Saville become curate at St John’s and St Augustine’s parish Accrington.

Canon Saville said: “We spent an interesting three years, dealing with all the ups and downs that you would expect. I did find families started to come to church that I knew from my previous work as a councillor.”

In 1995, he moved to St Luke’s Brierfield as parish priest.

While there the Rev Saville attended a church housing conference and was persuaded to join the Diocese’s board of social responsibility where he took up a part-time post focusing on racial justice.

Then he was asked to develop a social responsibility team, becoming its full-time leader in 2011.

The Rev Saville said: “I wanted to get every parish involved with social responsibility in some way that is within their grasp.”

Ed has spearheaded initiatives including Together Lancashire to tackle poverty, the St Phillip’s Family Centre in Nelson, an initiative to combat modern day slavery which launched a mobile phone app to pinpoint car wash sites where forced labour might be used.

Others included working with the NHS to improve the prospects of people coming out of prison, a project with the probation service helping women leaving custody and a scheme to assist people held in police cells stop re-offending.

The Rev Saville said: “We’ve helped to ensure social action gets established in parishes and communities all over Lancashire.”

He and Pam are planning several birdwatching and caravan trips and will move from Brierfield to Burnley later this year.

The Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, said: “Ed Saville’s commitment to promoting the common good and community cohesion has been exemplary.

“He has demonstrated energy, passion, and enabled significant projects to be undertaken.”