Tributes to former city council leader

A former Leeds City Council leader described as a 'stalwart' of Conservative politics in Leeds has died.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 9:48 am
Updated Thursday, 17th January 2019, 4:37 am
Peter Sparling was presented with his MBE by the Lord-Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Dr Ingrid Roscoe.

Tributes have been paid to Peter Norman Sparling, of Collingham, who oversaw the merger of two of the city’s biggest single-sex private schools in 2005, following his death aged 85.

First elected as a councillor in 1968, he rose to become leader of the city’s Conservative party as it claimed partial victory in the 1979 local elections.

Mr Sparling, who was a councillor for 19 years, also served as leader of the council until 1980.

Following his retirement in 1987, he was appointed an Honorary Alderman of the City of Leeds.

Away from politics, Mr Sparling served as chairman during a 30-year stint on Leeds Grammar School’s board of governors.

He helped oversee the merger between then single-sex schools Leeds Grammar School and Leeds Girls High School, in 2005, to form a co-educational independent day school with 2,200 pupils.

Mr Sparling was also involved in the formation of Leeds’ Opera North arts organisation, of which he was a founding member in 1978.

He also served as a director at West Yorkshire Playhouse, now known as Leeds Playhouse, and Leeds Grand Theatre.

In 2014, Mr Sparling was named a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for his contribution to local politics, the arts and education.

Alec Shelbrooke, Conservative MP for Elmet & Rothwell, was among those to pay tribute to Mr Sparling.

“Peter was a stalwart of Conservative politics in Leeds and our political family in Elmet & Rothwell won’t be the same without him,“ he said.

“Outside of politics, those who worked with Peter know just how proud he was of the organisations he supported, particularly of Opera North but also of Bardsey Primary School and GSAL (the Grammar School at Leeds) where he served as Chair of Governors”.

After qualifying as a solicitor in Leeds, Mr Sparling went on to become a senior partner at Blacks Solicitors before moving into local politics. He served as president of Elmet & Rothwell Conservative Association.

He leaves his wife, Bettie, and two children.