Mayor of London Boris Johnson has paid tribute to his Chief of Staff Sir Simon Milton, who died in hospital yesterday evening.
The Mayor described Sir Simon as “a wonderful colleague and friend” who would be “much missed by everyone who was involved in public life in this city.”
Respected across London’s political spectrum, Milton was a passionate champion of London and a vital member of Johnson’s administration.
Mr Johnson said: “He was kind, he was decent, and he was universally acknowledged to be brilliant at his job.
“He was a widely admired leader of Westminster Council, who played a key role in launching the first academy schools. He brought the same calm, logic and warmth to his role at City Hall.
“It is a great shock that Simon has been taken from us when he had so much still to offer.”
A former councillor on Westminster City Council, Milton served as leader of the council for eight years and was also formerly Chairman of the Local Government Association.
Knighted in 2006 for services to local government, Milton was appointed as an advisor to Johnson following his election as Mayor in May 2008. He was subsequently appointed as Deputy Mayor for Policy and Planning in September 2008.
His arrival at City Hall was widely seen as stabilising Johnson’s administration following the departures of several key aides and bringing much needed experience and focus to a team led by a inexperienced Mayor.
A re-organisation of the Mayor’s top team in July 2009 saw him elevated to the role of Chief of Staff, a position which his natural leadership and authority meant he was well suited for.
A spokesperson for the Mayor said Sir Simon would “be hugely missed at City Hall and by everyone in pubic life in our capital. London has benefited from his intellect, wisdom and decency.”
VIDEO: Boris Johnson pays tribute Sir Simon Milton
Conservative Party co-chairman Sayeeda Warsi said Milton would be remembered “as a loyal, hard working and significant political figure whose vast experience will be sadly missed.”
Tributes have also been paid by former colleagues at Westminster City Council.
Leader Colin Barrow said: “Simon lived a full life in fewer years than he deserved to enjoy. His role in London government, in the Conservative Party and the Local Government Association made him one of the leading Conservative politicians of his generation.”
The Council’s Chief Executive Mike More added: “Colleagues across the council will have worked closely with Sir Simon and all will be shocked at this news.
“His leadership as one of the main reasons I sought the role of chief executive and I know from my conversations with colleagues of the high regard in which he was held across the council.”
London Assembly Chair Dee Doocey described Sir Simon as “a dedicated public servant in both elected office at Westminster City Council and as the Mayor’s senior adviser at City Hall.
“In his dealings with both colleagues and political opponents he was decent, reasoned and concerned to achieve the best output for London. He will be sorely missed by colleagues across the political spectrum both at City Hall and throughout London. The London Assembly sends its sympathy to his family and friends.”
John Biggs, a Labour member of the London Assembly, said Milton “was a thoroughly decent and respectful man with whom it was a pleasure to work, in spite of the political differences.”
Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones said: “The Assembly Greens are very sad at the news of Sir Simon’s death. We admired his effectiveness and sometimes asked his advice, which was excellent, based on his wide experience.
“Although Sir Simon didn’t agree with most of our manifesto, he was ready to acknowledge a good idea and could be persuaded to include a green policy in the strategies if he felt it made sense. His early death leaves a huge gap in skills and ability in the Mayor’s office. We shall all miss his talents.”
Nicky Gavron, former Deputy Mayor to Ken Livingstone and Labour’s Planning and Housing spokesperson, joined those paying tribute: “It’s desperately sad that Sir Simon has died. Despite not having a common political perspective, over the many years we knew each other I found him to be incredibly thoughtful about the issues facing London.
“Simon was someone who would look for ways to find common ground and contributed enormously to public life in this city. His loss will be keenly felt. I would like to offer my sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.”
Jules Pipe, Chair of the cross-party London Councils, said London had “lost a true champion with the passing of Sir Simon Milton.”
“A decent man blessed with a formidable intellect and a practical approach to council politics he was a real asset to London local government. It came as no surprise when his many qualities were recognised with his election to chair of the Local Government Association.
“Latterly, in his role at City Hall he was able to bring his wealth of experience and expertise to running our great city. Always available to talk through concerns, nobody has done more to improve relations between City Hall and town halls across the capital. He will be sorely missed across London.”
Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: “This is a very sad loss. Although of course Sir Simon came from a different political background to me I always enjoyed working with him because he was interested in what was best for Westminster and London.
“He was a distinguished and dedicated public servant who was respected right across London local government. His death is a huge loss to his family and friends and will sadden so many people who worked alongside him at Westminster and in City Hall who saw his commitment to public service and working for London.”
Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of business lobbying group London First, said: “Sir Simon was distinguished by his quiet competence. Whatever he did, he did well. He will leave a big hole at City Hall and in public service more widely.”
Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister said: “Simon was an extraordinary politician and a thoroughly decent man. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends at this very difficult time.
“His work at the GLA has helped change our City for the better and influenced the lives of countless Londoners. His energy and drive will be sorely missed here in Wandsworth where, as a member of the Nine Elms and Vauxhall Strategy Board, he has been helping to regenerate and revive a part forgotten corner of central London.”
Baroness Margaret Eaton, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “Everyone in local government will be very saddened by the news that Simon has passed away. He was a hugely talented public servant who commanded immense respect across the political spectrum.
“Simon made a tremendous contribution to the LGA and the sector as a whole as chairman and, before that, as chairman of our Improvement Board. It has always been a privilege to succeed him. He was one of the most innovative and forward thinking council leaders of modern times, and brought the same skills and experience to his role at City Hall.”