A VETERAN councillor has stepped down after almost 20 years following a long illness.

The resignation of Conservative member Sheila Williams, who represented Beardwood with Lammack on Blackburn with Darwen Council, has triggered a by-election, due to be held next month.

Today Coun Williams, last year’s borough mayor, said she made the decision to quit because her health meant she could no longer carry out the duties in her ward.

Tory group leader Mike Lee paid tribute to a ‘brilliant councillor’, who was first elected in 1994.

Coun Williams, who did not want to give details of her illness, said: “It was not a difficult decision because I could not really carry on. I am very sad about it.

“I had a year left on my term and I would have loved to have served it but I just couldn’t.”

But the former Witton Park High School teacher said she left with ‘great memories’.

She added: “I made some great friendships, both within our group and in other groups.

“I also loved working with the children’s services department. I had a great time.”

Coun Lee said: “Sheila has been a brilliant councillor and she made a lot of friends in the borough.

“I know how honoured she was to be mayor last year. It was a role she really enjoyed and relished.

“Given that, I know how difficult it was for her to make this decision.”

However, Labour’s Kate Hollern and Dave Harling said Coun Williams should have stepped down before May’s election to avoid triggering a ‘costly by-election’.

Polling for the vacant Beardwood and Lammack seat will be held on Thursday, July 28. Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm.