THE man who steered Kirklees Council through its formative years has died.

Eric Dixon, who was chief executive of the new council from 1974 to 1983, has died at the age of 91. He passed away in Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital after a short illness.

Mr Dixon, who had also served as Town Clerk in Batley, was regarded by many as the face of the new Kirklees Council, following local government re-organisation.

Current council leader Mehboob Khan said: “Eric was a long-serving chief executive and oversaw the complex changes in local government in 1974 and the formation of Kirklees Council as we now know it.

“Whatever people thought of the changes and whether they agree or not, it was a complex change that had to be carried out and Eric was a vital leader through that time.

“He was proud of the area, especially Batley where he was a distinguished town clerk, and his memory will always be associated with the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield which was close to his heart.”

But it was not just at local political level that Mr Dixon made his name.

He left the UK in 1983 to take a top post in troubled Zimbabwe, advising its government on local administration.

That work, coupled with his contribution to local councils and to voluntary organisations, earned him the MBE in 1996 for services to the community.

Before becoming Kirklees’ first chief executive, he was town clerk of Batley and before that had held similar posts in Deal, Kent, and West Hartlepool.

Mr Dixon was born in Canterbury and schooled in Kent.

He was awarded a university scholarship but was unable to take it up as his widowed mother needed him to earn a wage.

He volunteered to serve in the RAF when World War II broke out and worked as an armourer-fitter on bombers in France. He later served in Northern Ireland. Kenya and Madagascar.

He and his wife Sarah married in Belfast in November 1945 and the couple went on to have two daughters, Margaret and Elaine.

His first post after the war was a clerk with Canterbury council and he went to night school to qualify as a solicitor in 1950.

While in South Africa, he supervised the country’s first universal elections.

Mr Dixon was honoured for his work with the Salvation Army which spanned more than 25 years.

He was a member of Batley Rotary Club, Batley Probus and the Round Table in both England and Lusaka.

He always regretted not going to university but in 1971 enrolled in the Open University and earned a BA and a BA honours degree.

In his spare time he enjoyed the Times crossword and golf, and had been a Leeds United season ticket holder during the Revie era.

Mr Dixon leaves two daughters and four grandchildren.