TRIBUTES have been paid to a leading Hyndburn councillor who has died.

Senior Hyndburn councillors and colleagues said Tony Dobson was a 'gentle giant' who was admired on both sides of the political divide.

Cllr Dobson, of Oswaldtwistle, had represented the Barnfield ward in Accrington since 2000 and was also the Hyndburn mayor in 2007/08.

The 52-year-old was elected as Conservative group leader in 2015 and it is believed he died from a heart attack in his bed overnight on Monday.

Chairman of the Hyndburn Conservative Association, Cllr Pat McGinley said: “Tony has spent so many hours in the past fortnight doing shopping for so many elderly people. Regardless of any political persuasion, he was loved by all.

“Such a caring, nice, and compassionate gentle giant, he truly dedicated his life to the service of the whole Hyndburn community.

“He will be sadly missed - taken too soon.

“He is with the angels in heaven. After the current crisis, we will organise a fitting memorial service for such a great guy.

“May he rest in peace.

"Thoughts are with his family, especially his two young sons.”

Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, Cllr McGinley added: “Tony was a standout guy who would help anyone.

“He was not only a wise man and politician but a genuine true friend to everyone who met him.

“Tony will be missed by so many. His death has sent shockwaves throughout the communities of Hyndburn and beyond.”

Sara Britcliffe, Hyndburn MP, was emotional in paying tribute to Cllr Dobson.

She said: “I think everybody, his friends, family and the wider community will be in shock and saddened by the news.

“He was a man who put others before himself.  “He adored the community and did everything he could to help them and that was always the case.

“Not only was a great leader of the Conservative group but a true friend to us all. We have lost a true community champion who will be sorely missed.”

Cllr Miles Parkinson, the Labour leader of Hyndburn Council, said: “Everyone at the council is deeply shocked and saddened at the tragic news of Tony’s death and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.

“Tony was a huge personality, with a warm, friendly and open manner which endeared him to everyone he met.

“Tony really was a true gentleman, highly respected on both sides of the council chamber, he leaves a huge void in the borough and will be missed by councillors and staff alike as he was loved by all.”

Former Conservative council leader Peter Britcliffe, added: “It is so sad and a shock.

“Tony was an outstanding councillor and I had the privilege of bringing him into politics as I tried to get him to stand for the Barnfield ward in Accrington.

“Wherever he went, there were people who knew him. We thought he was a healthy man because he used to play golf but he has been taken from us far too soon.”

Cllr Marlene Haworth will take up the role of Conservative Party leader.