TRIBUTES have been paid to popular, hard-working district councillor Jean Adkins.

Mrs Adkins died yesterday evening (Thursday) after a long battle with illness.

She had served as a councillor since 2007, originally as a Conservative, but more recently as an Independent.

Most of that time she was a member of Taunton Deane Borough Council, although she was elected in May to the newly formed Somerset West and Taunton Council, which replaced the Deane and West Somerset Council.

She represented Norton Fitzwarren and Staplegrove but had been too ill to attend any council meetings.

She left the Conservatives over her opposition to the formation of the new council, which she saw as a merger of the Deane and West Somerset.

Mrs Adkins, who was aged 67, was born near the centre of Taunton, and attended Bishop Fox's Grammar School.

She worked in housing sales for a housebuilder and then for Somerset Transport.

Mrs Adkins, who lived in Norton Fitzwarren with her husband of eight years, Mike, had two sons and two daughters and also 11 grandchildren, the most recent being born a couple of weeks before her death.

She had health issues with cancer, heart problems and diabetes in recent years.

She had been in hospital since just before the district elections and was more recently in Frethey House Care Home, Bishop's Hull.

Mr Adkins said: "She was wonderful, if hidden.

"She could be very sharp and aggressive. She said it as she saw it.

"But she had a wonderful nature.

"We had a static caravan in Mid-Wales which she loved and was looking forward to going back there.

"She was always pretty active, involved with something in the community. She loved the housing portfolio and used to be a churchwarden in Norton Fitzwarren.

"She had some very good talents.

"I'll miss some of the conversations we had about politics."

READ MORE: SHOCK RESIGNATION: Cllr Catherine Herbert's resignation sparks by-election

John Williams, who led the Conservatives on TDBC until it was abolished before the May election, said: "It's a very sad event.

"Jean contributed tremendously to society as an individual and through her councillor duties.

"She was an outstanding portfolio holder for housing.

"She had a real passion to help those less fortunate.

"She will be sorely missed. Our thoughts go out to her husband Mike and her family."

Jefferson Horsley, former leader of the LibDems on Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: "I am extremely sorry to hear about the death of Jean Adkins as I knew for many years before she ever became involved in politics and followed her career with interest from our first meeting when she owned and then managed a niche gift shop in Bath Place.

"This was well before she took on the other roles mentioned in the report published about her unfortunate demise.

" She certainly never let the grass grow under her feet.

"What she exemplified on the former council was a combination of a thorough understanding of the issues of the day which she matched with her uncompromising sense of values which were always dear to her heart. This no-nonsense approach meant that she always spoke 'truth unto power' and made a lot of people uncomfortable - myself included - as she would not be any under any circumstances be characterised as lobby fodder.

"Her contributions on the former TDBC planning committee were carefully phrased and caused equal embarrassment to officers and her fellow councillors with their astuteness and acerbity. 

"As a Lib Dem party 'hack' who didn't have the courage to disagree with his own colleagues in public when in a position of responsibility, I can only admire her resolve to disagree with her Conservative colleagues publicly when she resigned her housing portfolio on the grounds they weren't doing enough to promote social and affordable housing.

"She then left the Conservative party altogether with the  preposterous setting up of the West Somerset and Taunton Council which has already cost the taxpayers in Taunton Deane a sum of some several million pounds above the estimated savings with Deane House valued at only some £4.5million today despite some £7.5 million being spent on its refurbishment.

"The public will miss her thoughtfulness and her deep sense of social responsibility for the town and district she was born in and lived for all her life."

Mrs Adkins' funeral service will be at All Saints Church, Norton Fitzwarren, on Tuesday, August 13, at 2pm, followed by a private family interment in the churchyard. The funeral arrangements will be by Quantock Funeral Services.

A by-election to select a new councillor for Norton Fitzwarren and Staplegrove will be held in due course.

Another by-election is being held in the Vivary ward following the resignation this week of Cllr Catherine Herbert.