TRIBUTES have paid to a long serving councillor and former mayor of Basingstoke and Deane.

Councillor Rita Burgess, who served as a ward councillor for Winklebury and Kempshott, died on Sunday, aged 74.

Having served on the borough council for more than 30 years, she also represented the borough as mayor between 2002 and 2003, as well as serving as a Hampshire County Councillor.

Cllr Burgess was born in Essex and moved to Basingstoke in 1969 with her family – her son Steven and her twin daughters Susan and Hazel.

First elected to the borough council in 1984, she served as a councillor for Winklebury for 12 years. She returned to the council in 1999 representing the Kempshott ward. She served for many years as chairman of the council’s licensing committee.

Paying tribute to Cllr Burgess, current mayor of Basingstoke and Deane Cllr Paul Frankum said: ““Having served with Cllr Rita Burgess for 14 years on the licensing committee I found she always had a warm and supportive word of encouragement, and was quite often to seen handing out sweets at full council meetings. She will be sadly missed.”

With a career in accountancy, Cllr Burgess worked on environmental projects at AWE in Aldermaston. A member of the high IQ society MENSA, Cllr Burgess was also keen on adventurous sports, including abseiling, white water rafting and parascending.

Leader of the borough council, Cllr Clive Sanders added: “Rita was somebody who really embodied the idea of public service - 30 years of being a borough councillor, 18 years as a county councillor and holding the office of mayor for a year is a track record that few will emulate.

“On the surface a quiet and gentle person who was scrupulously fair, that appearance masked a piercing intellect and an unwillingness to suffer fools gladly that made her an outstanding chair of licensing. A pillar of the council for so many years, she will be sorely missed by all who knew her.”

A funeral service for Cllr Burgess will take place at Basingstoke Crematorium on Friday, 15 December at 3.30pm.