LONG-SERVING councillors Les Jones and Dave Tyler have said a fond farewell to Dudley Council after more than 20 years of service each.

One served as Dudley's leader and the other as the borough's mayor.

Both were elected back in 1999 and were due to stand down last year but the pandemic kept them in their roles as councillors for a final year.

Dave Tyler, a former firearms trained police officer who has represented the Lib Dems and Labour Party on Dudley Council, spent his final year as chairman of the health and adult social care scrutiny committee - keeping an eye on the borough's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "We wanted to be the first in the country to start scrutinising what we’re doing – us and our partners – about Covid.

"We didn’t want to wait until it’s all over to scrutinise it. Everyone has been very kind and said how good the scrutiny was and it’s been a really good and productive year from a council point of view. It’s been very busy – with a great team of officers as well."

But having served as a councillor for 21 years - he said: "The time was right for me to go personally, I feel I’ve done my bit."

Now aged 74, he first won Kingswinford North and Wall Heath for the Lib Dems in 1999 but lost the seat when the party fell from grace nationally in 2010.

Shortly afterwards he joined the Labour Party and won it back the following year - and had held the ward ever since.

Dudley News: Dave Tyler with former fellow councillor Lynn Boleyn and Ed Balls after they left the Lib Dems for Labour Dave Tyler with former fellow councillor Lynn Boleyn and Ed Balls after they left the Lib Dems for Labour

But he said: "I was a police officer for 30 years and a councillor for 21, so I’ve done my bit for the community over 50 years."

He said he was particularly proud of playing a part in the campaign to save Maidensbridge Primary School in Wall Heath from closure back in 2005 and becoming Mayor of Dudley in 2017/18 with wife Barbara at his side as Mayoress.

Dudley News: Dave Tyler and wife Barbara as Mayor and Mayoress of DudleyDave Tyler and wife Barbara as Mayor and Mayoress of Dudley

He said: "I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a highlight - becoming mayor of the borough where you live. I was born and raised in Blaze Park in Wall Heath and was the first Wall Heath resident to become Mayor of the borough. It's good when you're elected and you live in the area."

Although he's retired, he'll be keeping busy in his role as chairman of a local mental health charity and as honorary vice president of West Mercia Scout Association. He's also part of a former Dudley Mayors group - keen to support local events; and hopes to have more time to support his beloved Liverpool football club.

Long-serving Pedmore and Stourbridge East Conservative councillor Les Jones has also called it a day - after 22 years on Dudley Council.

Les was also elected back in 1999 at the age of 42 and by 2011 he'd made it to leader of the council.

Dudley News: Les Jones pictured with Anne Millward. Both of them had spells as leader of the councilLes Jones pictured with Anne Millward. Both of them had spells as leader of the council

His time at the helm of the authority, however, was short-lived as the Conservatives lost control of the council the following year in 2012.

The loss was "absolutely devastating," he admits.

He said: "I’d just been in the job for 12 months – I was just starting to turn the oil tanker round and Labour took eight seats. It was two years into the coalition government and austerity was biting. We were decimated across the country. We lost all Sandwell councillors. That was a sad moment of my political career."

The Labour losses suffered at last Thursday's local election reminded him of it all, he said: "I feel for the good hardworking councillors in Labour who have lost their seats."

But he said candidates shouldn't "come moaning about losing elections" - adding: "It’s not personal, that’s the nature of politics."

And Les should know, he's stood in more elections than most and lost plenty too.

He said: "I’ve been in elected office for 22 years but I’ve lost a lot of elections."

Having been involved in politics since 1983, he was lucky enough to win the safe seat of Pedmore and Stourbridge East the first time he stood for election in 1999.

Dudley News: Les Jones in his early days as a councillorLes Jones in his early days as a councillor

He's hung onto it fairly effortlessly ever since but his quest for a Parliamentary seat has sadly eluded him.

He stood in Halesowen and Rowley Regis back in 2001 and 2005, and in Dudley North in 2015 and 2017 - on the final occasion losing out to sitting Labour MP Ian Austin by just 22 votes.

He also threw his hat into the ring for the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner job twice but lost out to Labour.

Those regional elections were hard going, he confessed, and he said more recently he'd been feeling "quite fatigued from elections".

He said: "I might be running up a record -11 elections in 22 years is not common."

The plan had been to step down in 2020 but elections were cancelled due to the pandemic.

But with the Tories now riding high on a blue wave of success nationally and in Dudley where a raft of new councillors have gained council seats - does he regret stepping away?

He said: "We’ve won seats we wouldn’t have dreamed off. These are just unprecedented times as far as Dudley is concerned. But I'm still glad I’ve left. I’ve done my bit."

He admits to having no idea what he's going to do next - although he believes his years of council experience could come in handy for some of the newly elected Tory councillors particularly in Sandwell.

He said: "I do remember when we had 14 councillors but it’s been completely barren for the last few years so there’s nobody with any real political experience - current or historical."

He's also got plenty of local achievements to look back on including his efforts to get the police to open a mini office in one of Stourbridge's subways and a successful campaign to ensure the town's Tesco store wasn't built on the other side of the ring road and instead created to help regenerate the old Crown Centre and see the back of the old adjoining multi-storey car park.

He also trumpets his campaign that saw a much-used pedestrian crossing installed over the ring road, near the Hagley Road junction, after an elderly resident spoke out about fears of using the town's underpasses to go shopping.

Dudley News: Les Jones in his early days as councillor assisting pensioner Trudie Curnin through one of Stourbridge's gloomy subwaysLes Jones in his early days as councillor assisting pensioner Trudie Curnin through one of Stourbridge's gloomy subways

He remembers a rather critical news piece about the cost of the scheme but said a friend in the USA had a sign made for him - proudly declaring it 'Les's crossing'.

Now aged 65, he believes it's "the right time" to step down and he said: "The refresh we've just had is going to be fantastic. New people always have fire in their belly and want to make a real change and Patrick Harley has got a good solid mandate - it couldn't be better circumstances."

Long-serving Quarry Bank Labour councillor Bryan Cotterill has also said farewell to the council after 22 years.