A COMMUNITY stalwart has chaired his last parish council meeting but insists he is leaving an Oxford estate in good hands.

Gordon Roper has announced he is not seeking re-election to the Blackbird Leys parish council he has served for more than 20 years and will hang up his administrative boots next week.

The long-standing chair, who has overseen the council's rejuvenation over the last year, said his friends had welcomed the move - if only because they no longer have to see his 'ugly mug' so often in the Oxford Mail.

The 79-year-old said he felt the time was right to hand over the reins to some of the new people who have signed up as councillors recently.

He added: "It is sad to be going after the number of years I have spent doing it but I feel now is the best time to go.

"We have a lot of new faces and I am sure they will do a good job and take the council from strength to strength.

"I wish them every success."

Mr Roper has served on the parish council so long that he can't remember exactly when he first joined it.

Dedicating himself to tackling local issues, he lists his stand-out achievements as installing defibrillators, closing an alley way that was being used for drug dealing and laying a path through Spindleberry Park.

The former car-factory worker, who also served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, lived on the estate for 42 years before moving to Garsington but continued to serve on its council.

He said: "My heart has always been with Blackbird Leys, my son lives there and all my friends.

"It still has its problems but no more so than anywhere else in the county.

"We are gradually getting rid of the stigma - this is what I have fought for - and people can see there are so many positives to living here."

City councillor Rae Humberstone said Mr Roper had been the 'driving force' behind the estate for years.

He added: "Everyone knows Gordon and he has always been on the end of the phone as the first point of call, it has made our job that little bit easier."

Former Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said he would be a 'hard act to follow.'

He added: "Gordon has given wonderful service to our community.

"He has been a very effective chair of the Parish Council, always ready to help local people, full of common sense and great at listening and getting things done. I have greatly valued his support, advice and friendship since I came to Blackbird Leys nearly 40 years ago."