VETERAN councillor Jim Caunce, believed to be one of the longest serving politicians in the country, has died aged 92.

The ‘elder statesman’ of St Helens, a familiar face in the town hall for almost 60 years, was made a freeman of the town in 1995.

With an unswerving commitment to his constituents, he was re-elected in May 2008 in Haydock, a seat, which he had held for more than 50 years.

Known as ‘gentleman’ Jim, the Labour stalwart had served as deputy leader, chairman of all the major committees and had been the mayor twice in 1980 and 1992.

His political career started in 1951, when he was elected to the old Haydock District Urban Council and went on to become the ward’s youngest ever chairman in 1959 aged 40.

He married his late wife Elsie in 1944 and they would go on to have three daughters, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Jim was also Haydock’s representative on Lancashire County Council’s education and libraries committee for several years.

As Lancashire’s youngest ever JP in 1954, he acted as bench chairman between 1974 and 1978, going on to become the longest serving member of the bench on his retirement in 1988.

After studying at Newton Technical College, he began work at Simon Vickers in Newton-le-Willows before moving to Triplex in 1964.

The leaders of the three main political parties in St helens paid tribute to a “true gentleman”.

Council leader Marie Rimmer said she was privileged and honoured to have worked alongside him, while Lib Dem leader Brian Spencer described him as an “astute politician”.

Conservative leader Wally Ashcroft called him a “true community councillor”.

They were comments echoed by council chief executive Carole Hudson who said: “He was truly a man of the people who he always represented to the very best of his ability.”

Dave Watts MP, who had known him for more than 33 years, said he was born the same day Jim was first elected.

He added: “He will be sadly missed by his family, who were devoted to him, by the Labour Party and by the residents of Haydock who he served for 50 years.

“Jim was an articulate, clever and hardworking local councillor and everyone in Haydock knew him. He is irreplaceable.

“He devoted his life to public service and was always helping people. In his early days, because he was an engineer by trade, when he went out canvassing, he would carry a screwdriver in his pocket.

“If someone needed anything fixing, he would do it for them. He was an extremely nice man.

“Jim was also a keen church goer and would often tend the graves in his local cemetery.

"He’d even cut the grass with an old fashioned mower, until my predecessor John Evans brought him a more modern one.”