Ex-leader of city council ‘made a huge contribution to Oxford’

Oxford Mail: Bill Baker was also a lifelong supporter of Oxford United Bill Baker was also a lifelong supporter of Oxford United

BORN and bred in Oxford, Labour Party loyalist Bill Baker died on January 20 following a long illness. He was 78.

The former Oxford City Council leader and former Lord Mayor was born in Campbell Road in 1935 and was the middle child with an older and younger sister.

At the age of four, Bill moved with his family to Meadow Lane and attended Donnington School, before moving to Temple Cowley School.

Decades later, his three sons were to follow in his footsteps by also going to Donnington School.

In 1955, Mr Baker met his future wife Vicky Davis through a mutual friend. He took her to the cinema for their first date.

The couple announced their engagement in February 1957 and married the following August.

Their first son Paul was born in 1959 followed closely by two more boys, Mark and Adam, in 1961 and 1963 respectively.

Mr Baker never moved far from his childhood home and when he and his wife first married they rented a flat in Iffley Road. They moved to Fairacres Road in 1959 on to Preachers Lane in 1961, and then to 66 Donnington Bridge Road in 1963.

He returned to Meadow Lane – which is the present family home – in 1989, next door to where he had grown up.

On leaving school he worked for Oxford University Press for a short time before enlisting in the Army and served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.

When he left the Army he took a job with Hoover for a short period before moving to Morris Motors. He stayed at the Cowley car plant for 28 years.

He later went to work as a groundsman for Oxford University at University Parks in Mansfield Road.

Mr Baker was pro-active in local boys’ football and managed boys’ teams at Rose Hill and Westgate.

He encouraged his own sons to be active and enjoyed watching them all play his beloved game.

While on the city council he was also instrumental in helping Oxford United move from the Manor Ground in Headington to its new home at the Kassam Stadium.

He was a lifelong supporter of the U’s and until very recently he attended every home game. In recent months his sons had a ‘rota’ system so that they could take their father to and from the game as ill health was taking its toll.

Mr Baker devoted many years of his life to public service and represented his local constituency on the city council from 1986 to 2006 when he eventually retired.

As a Labour councillor he was deputy leader for three years until 1993 and then led the local authority from 1993 to 1996 when he replaced Dr Phyllis Starkey.

He was also deputy leader from 2004 to 2006.

After leaving the council he continued to support his local constituency and would tirelessly campaign within Oxford during the elections.

He was also chairman of Donnington Community Association and Oxford Federation of Community Associations and right up to his death he continued to negotiate new leases between the associations and the city council.

Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said Mr Baker had “made a huge and distinguished contribution to Oxford” and added that “he had a heart of gold”.

One of Mr Baker’s proudest moments was becoming Lord Mayor of Oxford in 1997. During this time he awarded the Freedom of the City to Nelson Mandela.

At his home in Meadow Lane there is a photo of Mr Baker with Mr Mandela for everyone to see when they visit the house.

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-four is survived by his wife – who worked for 23 years at Marks & Spencer in Oxford – and his sons.

His funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church, Iffley, on Monday, February 10 at 12.30pm.

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