A Bicester man who has dedicated 40 years to keeping his town clean and tidy is calling on the public to show respect and care for the town centre where he lives.

Tony Bates can trace his family history in Bicester back hundreds of years.

This week he was presented with a long service award by Cherwell District Council’s chief executive Gordon Stewart, marking four decades of public service as part of the street cleansing team.

Mr Bates started his role as a teenager and takes pride in keeping his hometown looking its best for all who visit, picking litter, emptying bins, and tackling fly-tips and graffiti.

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He also acts as an informal ambassador for the town, offering directions and advice to tourists and, even on occasion, reuniting people with lost property that he has recovered.

Mr Stewart said: “Our towns thrive thanks to the care and attention of people like Tony. He does a wonderful job keeping the town centre tidy and his love for his hometown shines through in his dedication to the role.

“Tony is a well-known, friendly face in town and a credit to Cherwell. He is one of our longest-serving current employees, and it was a pleasure to present him with his long service award as a token of our gratitude.

"Four decades into the role, he shows no signs of slowing down.”

Mr Bates said: “I am proud to be from Bicester and want the town to look its best for visitors and residents.

"Having an active job and cycling to work every day has kept me in good physical shape over the years, and I really enjoy chatting to residents and visitors who stop and say hello while I’m working.

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“We have a wonderful town, and everyone can do their bit to help us keep it clean and tidy by respecting it and disposing of their waste properly.”

Mr Bates is a keen bike rider who cycles to work every day and enjoys longer rides through the nearby countryside on the weekends.

He has worked every bank holiday and Christmas Day since he joined the council in 1984.

Over the years, Mr Bates has recovered some valuable items that members of the public have accidentally left behind.

He was once able to return a purse of great sentimental value to its owner in Newcastle and, on another occasion, reunited a pensioner with £650 in cash, which he found in a carrier bag.