The sun is shining and I’m at my desk clearing Easter emails and yet the sky has just got a little more dull, a bit more boring and a hole has appeared in the world of liberal democracy and global environmental concern.  Cllr Colin Hall, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader of the London Borough of Sutton has died after a short illness.

Colin was a force of nature in the world of local politics: he was usually in a hurry, invariably too busy, often irritated at inaction, wanting more to happen quicker and all with a smile, a cheery demeanour and an inability to hold a grudge for long.

I first got to know him well him when I worked in the Leader’s Office at the London Borough of Sutton.  Colin stood out.  He didn’t come into the Town Hall unless he needed to, and when he did he was in a  bit of a hurry – he was always trying to juggle too many things.  He usually had a list of things that were worrying him or was wanting to pick a fight with someone whom he had decided was not working hard enough to improve the lives of Sutton residents. But his motives and his ambitions were always genuine and sincere.

At the peak of any discussion his solution was either to declare that he had won (a look of satisfaction at a job done) or a look of resignation that he had lost. His next gambit was in reserve – an invitation to have a drink (usually a red wine) when he would start the conversation again – and you would then agree he was right after all.

Over the years, I have worked with councillors from many groups up and down the country.  Colin was the councillor who explained to me in real, simple and specific ways the notion that a local council could have a real immediate and actual impact on the global environment.  For Colin it was urgent and had to happen.

I will never forget the day he rushed me round Wallington for 3 hours explaining what had happened to improve things over the years and what needed to happen next.  He also had a clear vision and set of ideas about how, once the changes had been made, we needed to plan to improve on those improvements.

Whether it was housing, road repairs, waste disposal, tree maintenance, road and vehicle management, schools, youth clubs, libraries, allotments, political leadership, parking and more – Colin wanted it ALL to be better.  Better value for money, more efficient and transparent and on the side of the residents.  Crucially for Colin it had to be environmentally sustainable.

He probably never knew it, but it was his passion and vision that later led us (the Lib Dem Group at the Local Government Association) to commission David Boyle to write the Power Actually (2007)and Greening Actually (2009) series – handbooks that detailed what could be done up and down the country by local councils.  Indeed it was over one of the many bottles of wine (when Colin explained why I was wrong about something) that planted the idea that we should recognise Council Groups by writing and publishing their story (not just giving out awards).  This was something that we went on to do in recognising the decades of Liberal Democrat achievement in the London Borough of Sutton, amongst others.

Colin was no softie – he understood that change could be abrupt and painful, that good teams need to be able to get rid of people and have space to involve new ideas, new people, and better ideas.  But I’m sitting at my desk reflecting on the harsh cruelty of losing someone from whom more people should have learnt and who had so much to offer.  Colin – thank you and farewell –  I’m off to buy a decent bottle of red wine and will remember you as I share that with friends.

Cllr Hall was born in 1961 and lived in Wallington. He was first elected to the council as a Liberal Democrat for Wallington South ward in 1998. He was re-elected in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014.  He died on 30th March 2015.