It is with great sadness that we announce that Cllr Judi Billing MBE, Executive Member for Community Engagement and ward councillor for Hitchin Bearton, passed away suddenly in the early hours of today, Thursday 24 November, at the age of 71.
Judi was a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, as well as serving as County Councillor for Hitchin North and the Labour Group Leader at County Hall. She will be missed by many people and our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.
Judi served as a district councillor for 42 years – first being elected in 1980 – and a county councillor since 2013. She served on many district council committees, including as co-chair of the Cabinet Panel on Community and Enterprise, chair of the Standards Committee, and the Hitchin Area Committee, which she was chair of for four years (inconsecutively) between 2009 and 2017. Judi had also been a member of the Cabinet at North Herts Council since 2019, as part of the joint administration. She was appointed as North Herts Council representative for the Hitchin Educational Foundation and the North Hertfordshire Centre for Voluntary Service (NHCVS).
At Hertfordshire County Council, Judi was the spokesperson for the Education, Libraries and Lifelong Learning Cabinet Panel, and the Public Health and Community Safety Cabinet Panel. She also sat on the Employment Committee and Impact of Scrutiny Advisory Committee.
She worked across party lines in her role at the Local Government Association to help councillors be effective and to seek to improve local government. She received an MBE in 2015 for her services to local government.
Reacting to the news, North Herts party group leaders said:
Cllr Elizabeth Dennis-Harburg, Leader of North Herts Council and Labour and Cooperative Group Leader, said: “Words cannot express the loss we are feeling. Judi was a friend, mentor and role model to me, and was always there if I needed help – including loaning me a tumble dryer when mine broke. I will miss her fierce wit, intelligence, and advocacy for Hitchin and our communities. Judi made a difference to so many lives and was truly one of a kind.”
Cllr Ruth Brown, Deputy Leader of North Herts Council and Liberal Democrat Group Leader, said: “I am so shocked and saddened to hear of Judi's untimely and sudden death. As part of the joint administration, I worked as Judi’s deputy for community engagement for about two and a half years. I thoroughly enjoyed working so closely with her and learning from her wealth of experience. Just last week, she attended the council’s youth democracy event, which she reinstated in 2019. It was such a wonderful event and testament to her passion and dedication to democracy and commitment to encouraging young people to get involved. She served the residents of Hitchin with tireless devotion over many decades as a district and county councillor and she will be sorely missed.”
Cllr Claire Strong, Conservative Group Leader, said: “I’m very sad to hear the news of Judi's passing and my thoughts are with her family and friends. I first met Judi when I joined the council in 1995 and I have always admired her passion for politics and the dedication she gave to all the residents she represented. She was committed to communities and worked tirelessly with so many groups to help and support them. Only last week she was leading the workshop for members and officers working together. We will all miss her humour and speeches in the council.”
Chair of the Local Government Association, Cllr James Jamieson, said: “It is with great sadness that we learn of Judi’s passing. Judi was a remarkable person, who dedicated so much of her life to local government. For many years Judi worked tirelessly with us and her huge contribution to helping councils improve services for the many people who rely upon them, means she leaves a lasting legacy. On behalf of all of us across the sector, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Judi’s family and friends. She will be very sadly missed.”