A VETERAN ‘no-nonsense’ politician is standing down from a borough’s Labour front-bench team after 22 years.

Clllr Maureen Bateson, 71, is giving up her role as Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive board member for children and education at tomorrow’s annual meeting.

She has been on her party’s top team since the formation of the borough in 1998.

Cllr Bateson - a mother of three with three grandchildren and a great grandchild - is standing down because of worsening lung problems but will remain councillor for Ewood ward for at least two years and act as assistant to her successor Cllr Julie Gunn.

First-elected to Cathedral ward in 1983, she said former Blackburn MP Barbara Castle was her ‘inspiration’ adding: “She was spellbinding."

Born in Mill Hill to labourer Harry and his weaver wife Sarah, Cllr Bateson said: “I am looking forward to some more me time, time with family and perhaps a holiday break.

“I have been very lucky in what I have been able to achieve.

“Women’s rights and the welfare of children have been the two linked themes of my political career.

“I have always believed in straight talking and to me this has all been about the people.”

A passionate Blackburn Rovers fan since childhood she said a highlight was overseeing the civic celebrations for the team winning the Premier League in 1995, just days before she became mayor.

She also picked out her role with the Lancashire Telegraph in setting up the ‘Keep Them Safe’ campaign against child sexual grooming 2006 which led to the creation ground-breaking ‘Engage’ team involving the police, council and other agencies.

Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan said: “Maureen’s down-to-earth, no-nonsense style is legendary and she’s best known for fiercely championing the needs of the most vulnerable children and families. Whatever she gets involved in, she makes sure everybody is focused on making it a success.”

His Conservative counterpart Cllr John Slater said: “While we have disagreed on policy and politics, there is no doubt about Maureen’s passion for the children of this borough. She will be a loss to the ruling Labour group.”

Darwen East Liberal Democrat Cllr Paul Browne said: “She was first-class in her job – a gem among Labour politicians.”

Cllr Bateson, award the MBE in 2011, said: “I think I have made my parents and children proud."

She added: “I have enjoyed it. There will be a big hole but I have plenty to do as ward councillor and helping Julie if she wants it.

“Highlights include setting up Blackburn with Darwen’s children’s centres especially Apple Trees hub for youngsters with disabilities.

“ I am proud to be Blackburn born and bred.”