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Peter Sparling MBE

Photo: Leeds Grammar SchoolPeter Sparling was the epitome of the dedicated and earnest public representative. He was a well-regarded Conservative politician who took on many of the mundane duties that were important to the functioning of the party. Never charismatic, Sparling was a loyal adjutant to Irwin Bellow during the latter's leadership of the Leeds City Council, so much so that when Bellow was suddenly catapulted into Margaret Thatcher's government in 1979 it was natural that the party would turn to Sparling's safe pair of hands to take over as leader. It was a difficult time with no party with a majority and with Labour sniping from the sidelines despite having turned down a coalition with the Liberals. He served as council leader until Labour won back control in May 1980. He served as a Councillor for Moortown ward, 1968-1987, when he was appointed an Honorary Alderman.

His committee skills were applied to many organisations in the City of Leeds. He was chairman of the governors of the Leeds Grammar School for eighteen years, seeing it through its merger with the Leeds Girls High School and its transition to the "Grammar School at Leeds" on its new site at Alwoodley. He was one of the founding board members of what became Opera North and chaired its Friends organisation for twenty years. Whilst leader of the Leeds City Council he agreed with the Grand Theatre board to invite Leeds' twin city, Dortmund, to send its opera company to put a week of opera to celebrate the theatre's centenary. The company duly came with some two hundred staff at an astronomical cost! Sparling commented to Councillor Michael Meadowcroft, whose idea it had been, that if he had known what it would cost he "would never have let him get away with it" and that he had had to hide some of the expenditure under different budget heads!

He was also a non-executive director of the Leeds Dental Health Authority from 1992 to 1997, and a director for several years of the West Yorkshire Playhouse board. In recent years he was a very active governor of the Bardsey Primary School. He held many offices within the Conservative party, including chairman and later president of the Elmet and Rothwell constituency party. For many years he was a season ticket holder at Leeds United.

He was awarded an MBE in 2014 for his contribution to the arts, education and the community. He leaves a wife, Bettie, a daughter, Helen, and a son, James.

Peter Norman Sparling, born 24 December 1933, died 10 January 2019.