TRIBUTES have been paid to an equalities campaigner and city councillor who died at her home.
Police forced their way into the home of Cllr Lynn Jeffries, 58, on Friday afternoon, when work colleagues became concerned about her whereabouts and raised the alarm.
The councillor, who was diabetic, was known throughout the city for her tireless work to improve standards for disabled people.
It was this passion to give people a voice which led her to stand as a Labour councillor in the 2011 elections, where she was successful in joining Cllr James Alexander’s party to represent Westfield.
However, little more than 15 months later, Cllr Jeffries, of Dudley Mews, resigned from the party to become an independent representative following a number of clashes with leaders over their running of the group.
She claimed the city’s ruling party was dominated by an autocratic leadership that ignored residents over issues such as the sale of the Union Terrace car park and told its own backbenchers how to vote.
The final straw for her was the party’s handling of plans to cut social care for the vulnerable in an attempt to save £390,000.
She resigned from the party and became an independent, but chose to join the Liberal Democrats in May 2013, because the party offered “the real alternative” to her old one.
Labour leader of City of York Council, Cllr Alexander, said: “I’m extremely saddened to hear the news that Lynn Jeffries has passed away. I first met Lynn when she gave me training on disabilities during my time at university. It was from that point that I got to know her better and encouraged her to stand for and get elected as a Labour councillor.
“Clearly our opinions differed after that but I always had every respect for Lynn and the thoughts of myself and the entire Labour group are with her family at this sad time.”
Cllr Keith Aspden, leader of the Liberal Democrat council group, said: “We are deeply saddened by Lynn’s passing.
“Our best wishes at this very difficult time are with Lynn’s friends and family.
“During her time on the council Lynn has been a devoted community councillor, a champion for equalities and a good friend.
“She will be greatly missed.”
Cllr Jeffries was born in Darlington and was partially disabled following a skiing accident in 1992, but she spent most of her life helping those living with a disability.
As part of the York Coalition of Disabled People, she introduced a “yellow card” system for businesses to help them improve access for blind or deaf shoppers, or those in a wheelchair, in 1999.
The cards were handed to bosses to remind them of their statutory obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act and offered advice on how they could make their shop or restaurant more accessible.
In 2000 she was given the job of improving services for disabled people at York Hospital and regularly provided disability equality training at the University of York.
Cllr Dafydd Williams, a Labour Westfield councillor, said: “She was always very pleasant, very warm and would always ask after family.
“Even though she was in quite a lot of pain herself because of her condition, her first question was always ‘how are you?’ “She was a tireless campaigner for disabled people’s issues, but for all vulnerable people she was a real passionate campaigner.”
Matthew Laverack, Cllr Jeffries’ landlord, added: “She was a woman of the utmost integrity and I had great respect for her.”
Kersten England, chief executive of York council, said: “It was with great sadness and shock to learn that Councillor Lynn Jeffries has died. Lynn was a well-known figure around the city who served the community as a passionate campaigner for the rights of disabled people, and who represented Westfield ward residents as a councillor since 2011. We offer her family our deepest condolences and remember with gratitude her contribution to local democracy.”