A FORMER leader of Gloucestershire County Council has died aged 79.

Well-known figure Barry Dare passed away this morning following a bout of ill health.

Cllr Dare, who moved to Blockley in 1965, was leader of the Conservatives when they took control of the county council from the Liberal Democrats for the first time in 20 years in 2005.

He led the authority for five years before retiring to the back benches.

Cllr Mark Hawthorne, who took over from Cllr Dare, said: “Barry Dare was a great servant of the people of Gloucestershire, and of the Conservative Party.

"His drive and energy revolutionised campaigning – meaning for the first time in twenty years we took control of the county council. 

"His managerial and financial skills build the firm foundation for the council’s finances today – his efforts are helping us protect frontline services to this day. I hope that, at a time of great sadness, his family take some comfort from all the great achievements he was responsible for.”

After retiring from GCC, Cllr Dare continued to serve on Cotswold District Council (CDC), where he was formerly a cabinet member, until his death.

He was made an Alderman of Gloucestershire in 2013, in recognition of his long service to the county, and continued to regularly attend county council meetings until earlier this year.

In April, concerns were raised about the long-serving councillor’s health and his duties in the Stow Ward had been taken over by fellow Conservative Richard Keeling.

Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told the Standard: “I spoke to his wife, Wendy, yesterday evening and he was gravely ill.

“I’ve known him for a long, long time. He’s got as huge record of public service.

"He originally stood for elections in the 1970s for Parliament before taking up roles on the county council and district council.

“It’s a great, great sadness to hear of his death and I’d like to send my sympathies to Wendy.

“I gather Wendy and his family were with him when he died.”

CDC Lib Dem leader Joe Harris tweeted: “Very sad to hear of the death of former @GlosCC leader Barry Dare. A real gentleman, my thoughts are with his family.”

A spokesman for CDC said expressed the authority's "deepest regrets" at the passing of the political heavyweight.

Richard Coates, Gloucestershire County Council Conservative Group researcher, said: “It seems strange to call a Conservative from the Cotswolds a revolutionary – but in his way, Barry was just that. 

"He transformed the Conservatives at Shire Hall with his energy, enthusiasm and vision.  When he took over as Leader, there were only two Conservative MPs in the county, when he left, there were five, and I know he took great pleasure in Alex Chalk’s election last year, completing, as he saw it, the set. 

"Most of all he was a friend and mentor to so many of us.  Of all his titles and achievements, I know his proudest was Grandbaz, his grandchildren’s nickname for him.  He was very proud of his family, and our deepest sympathies are with them at this difficult time.”