Tributes have been paid to a council’s longest-serving member following his sudden death this weekend.

Cllr Morris Nicholls, who passed away on Saturday, aged 78, served on Durham County Council for more than three decades.

He was known to his colleagues as ‘father of the house’ due to his long service with the authority, which began in 1981 when he was chosen to represent the Thornley division, covering the villages of Thornley, Wheatley Hill and Deaf Hill.

Cllr Nicholls still held the seat, which had become Trimdon and Thornley ward following a boundary review in 2013, when he passed away.

A former miner, Cllr Nicholls served as Vice Chairman of the county council from 1995 to 1997 and Chairman of the Council from 1997 to 1999.

He was Cabinet member for adult services from 2007 to 2015 and also a member of the Health and Wellbeing Board from 2013 to 2015.

He had been Vice Chairman of the Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee since May 2015 until recently becoming Chair of the Adults, Wellbeing and Health Scrutiny Committee.

He had also served on Wheatley Hill Parish Council from 1983 and District of Easington Council from 1991 to 2009.

Cllr Nicholls, from Wheatley Hill, leaves a wife Mary, daughters Karen and Susan and granddaughters Megan and Neave.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “We are shocked and saddened to hear of Morris’ death.

“He was an extremely dedicated member of the council, who had given many years of service to the people of County Durham as a county, district and parish councillor.

“He will be very much missed not just by his colleagues in the council chamber but by those he represented and the officers he worked alongside.”

Cllr Lucy Hovvels, who also represents the Trimdon and Thornley ward, said: “Morris was a well-respected friend and colleague, who I had known and worked alongside for many years.

“He was committed to serving the community he represented and achieved much during his time as a councillor.

“He will be very much missed.”