Ipswich: Tributes pour in to leading town figure

ONE of the best-known and most loved figures on the Ipswich political scene, Russell Harsant, has died after a long battle with cancer.

Mr Harsant, 78, was a member of both the borough and county councils – and was married to former borough council leader Liz Harsant.

He had been very ill for several weeks and had been receiving treatment at the St Elizabeth Hospice.

Mr Harsant, who went to Northgate Grammar School, was a retired building surveyor. He joined Ipswich Borough Council as Conservative member of the old St Clement’s Ward in 1983. Most recently he represented Bixley on both councils.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer led the tributes today. He said: “This is very sad news. Russell was a kind and life-enhancing friend whom we shall all miss very much.

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“He made a considerable contribution to Ipswich during several decades of public service as a Borough and County councillor. My thoughts and prayers are with Liz and his family.”

Ipswich Star editor Nigel Pickover said: “ He was a kind, loving and dedicated family man and husband. Our first thoughts go to one of the most lovely people you will ever meet – Liz Harsant.

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“He was distinguished in his family life and his loss will be felt across the town – but especially by his wife and family.”

A spokesman for the borough council was saddened to hear the news – although he had been aware Mr Harsant had been very ill.

He said: “This is a really sad day. Russell was that rare breed of politician. No one had a bad word to say against him, from whatever political party they came from. ‘Much-loved’ can be a cliche, but there’s no other way of describing him.”

Paul Geater first covered Ipswich Council for the Star nearly 30 years ago.

He said: “When I started Russell was already a senior councillor who soon became group leader – but he always had time to talk to a youngster starting out.

“We’ve chatted regularly, and candidly, hundreds of times since then. This is an incredibly sad day. My heart goes out to Liz and his family.”

Labour leader of the borough David Ellesmere said: “This news has saddened everyone at the borough. Russell was well liked and respected by people from all sides.”

Chief Executive Russell Williams said: “This is a very sad day. No one, whether a Councillor or a member of staff, had a bad word to say about him. He was a lovely man. Our hearts go out to Liz and his family.”

Do you have a tribute to pay to Mr Harsant? Send them to starnews@archant.co.uk

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