Horsham Liberal Democrats are greatly saddened by the news of Councillor Leonard Crosbie’s death, just a couple of weeks after his retirement from Horsham District Council.
First elected to Horsham District Council in 1995, when the Liberal Democrats won 24 seats and majority control of the Council, Leonard’s business experience, acquired over many years as a manager and director in the airline industry, both at Gatwick and in Africa, was quickly recognised. He was appointed as the first ever Liberal Democrat Chairman of the Finance Committee, in which role he was able to use his skills to provide an expert eye on financial matters at the council.
Over many years, his wisdom, sharp wit and political understanding have been recognised and utilised for the overall benefit of everyone who lived in Horsham District; he served for long periods as Leader of the Opposition and as Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee.
He also had a strong interest in healthcare issues, being the first chairman of the Horsham and Chanctonbury Primary Care Trust and a campaigner on the difficulties of travelling to East Surrey Hospital from Horsham. Having undertaken the journey by bus to demonstrate the time it took, Leonard’s pressure led to a dedicated service being laid on, linking Horsham, Crawley and East Sussex Hospitals. Unfortunately for people who now have to make the journey by public transport, this was subsequently axed to save money.
Speaking on behalf of the Lib Dem Group, Leader Frances Haigh said, “Leonard has been an excellent councillor for both Trafalgar Ward and for the wider Horsham District. He has served for 25 years with great diligence and has brought exceptional skill and knowledge to that role. Many councillors from all parties have learned a great deal from him. He has been an incisive leader of Scrutiny and Overview and has helped to ensure that the Council’s resources are well used and applied for the benefit of residents. It has been a great pleasure to work with him and I will miss his wisdom and advice.”
Councillor Christine Costin was elected alongside Leonard in 1995. She said, "For 25 years Leonard and I worked side by side to represent Trafalgar Ward in Horsham Town. It was a strong and successful partnership; we were voted back 5 times. After so long, we had come to share a strong friendship in good and bad times. We understood one another, so I will miss his company, his witty remarks and extensive knowledge."
Nigel Dennis County Councillor for Horsham Hurst (which includes the Trafalgar ward) said “It has been my privilege to work with Leonard to serve and represent the people of Trafalgar over the last 25 years.
“Leonard was proud to be Chairman of HDC in the year of the London Olympics. In the Chairman’s position, he officially opened the redevelopment of Leggyfield Court in Redford Avenue which brought a ‘state of the art’ sheltered accommodation facility to the Trafalgar area.”
Leonard was valued across the political spectrum and was chosen to become the Council’s Chairman, a rare honour in Horsham for someone from an opposition group. Many people see the chairmanship solely as a ceremonial role, but good leadership skills are crucial in managing meetings too. Leonard brought his special mixture of warmth and charm to both parts of the role and was widely seen as a very successful chairman, greatly respected by his fellow members and council officers.
As a Liberal Democrat member, Leonard loyally supported fund-raising events for most of his time as a councillor, contributing incisive questions for speakers, compliments for the cooks, raffle prizes and large doses of his Irish charm.
Nigel Dennis sums up the loss of this very remarkable man, to Horsham District, to the Liberal Democrats and to the residents of Trafalgar Ward: “Leonard was above all a committed local ward member for Trafalgar, regularly attending Neighbourhood Council meetings and following up residents’ issues. His experience and commitment will make him a tough act to follow.”