AN INDEPENDENT councillor and former Labour cabinet member on St Helens Borough Council has resigned.

Cllr Gill Neal, who represents Windle for The Independents, handed her resignation to the council’s chief executive Kath O’Dwyer on Friday, who informed councillors and staff on Tuesday night.

The former Labour councillor was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and has been undergoing an aggressive course of chemotherapy.

In January, Cllr Neal announced she would not seek re-election this year, but has continued to carry out her council duties after the Government postponed the local elections for a year.

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Cllr Neal appeared less animated during a debate on anti-racism education at full council last month, at one point stopping to take a deep breath.

The former cabinet member for public health and wellbeing has now decided it is time to walk away from life in the spotlight to continue her personal battle.

Cllr James Tasker, leader of The Independents, has paid tribute to his former colleague.

He said: “Gill has proudly served the residents of Windle with such integrity, professionalism and compassion for the last four years. Gill has been extremely active over the last four years and has contributed to making the lives of residents in Windle and St Helens as a whole better.

“Gill has been involved with many different causes during her time and these include working with SEND during the Ofsted local authority inspection, raising mental health and suicide awareness, highlighting the effects of obesity within society and promoting a sugar tax, with funds raised from this tax to come back to the local authority, and a council motion to support women affected by WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality).

“However, Gill’s proudest moment as a councillor was in 2016 when she was able to secure holiday hunger funding from the leader’s fund.

“This made sure that the most vulnerable children in St Helens has access to meals outside of school time.”

Cllr Neal thanked council officers for the help and support she received during her time as a councillor.

She also thanked fellow councillors for their support and friendship, saying “there are a lot of faces that she will miss.”

St Helens Star: Cllr Gill Neal took part in a recent debate on anti-racism education at full council Cllr Gill Neal took part in a recent debate on anti-racism education at full council

Cllr Tasker added: “While Gill’s political fight is over, for now, her biggest battle is still ongoing.

“I would like Gill and her family know that we are thinking of them and that we pray for her to come through this terrible illness.

“Councillors come and go over time but only a few will ever last in memory. It is fair to say that Gill will never be forgotten.”

The council is now required to publish a notice of vacancy for the seat in Windle, however, the council’s chief executive confirmed that a by-election will not be taking place due to the pandemic.

Cllr Neal’s resignation leaves Windle with two sitting councillors – Labour’s Mancyia Uddin and council leader David Baines.

In an email sent to councillors and staff, which has been seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Ms O’Dwyer said: “I am writing to let you know that Cllr Gill Neal has resigned as a councillor for Windle ward with effect from July 31.

“Gill has asked me to pass on her thanks to officers for their support and advice.

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“As the legislation currently stands, a notice of vacancy must be published.

“However, if an election is requested, a by-election will not currently take place due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“The vacancy will be held open until the next poll is able to take place.”