Toby Eckersley obituary

Other lives: Conservative councillor who championed social housing rights

Toby Eckersley, a relative of mine by marriage, who has died aged 76, was a Conservative councillor who championed social housing rights, most notably in his role at the helm of the Aylesbury estate campaign in Walworth, south London, from 2014 onwards, fighting for fair compensation for leaseholders. They are set to lose their homes with the demolition and regeneration of the estate. His involvement in housing campaigning began in the early 1970s when, after a period working in the US, he had returned to Britain and bought a terraced house off Walworth Road in Southwark, two miles from the Aylesbury estate. When Southwark council decided to demolish his house and many others in adjacent streets as part of a slum clearance campaign, he led a committee to challenge the move.

He became a local Conservative councillor in 1977, serving for 37 years, and when he stood down from that role became pivotal to the Aylesbury estate campaign, which culminated in a ruling in 2016 that found the controversial demolition and regeneration plans were a breach both of the leaseholders’ human rights and of the Equality Act 2010. The first of five children of Timothy Eckersley, a BBC sound archivist, and his wife, Penelope (nee Hammersley), a theologian and retreat director, Toby was born in Buxted, East Sussex. He attended Charterhouse school, in Surrey, and at 19 went on a gap year to teach Latin and maths at Hasan Abdal Cadet college in Punjab, returning overland through Afghanistan and Iran.

He then studied philosophy, politics and economics at St John’s College, Oxford, where he was president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. After graduating in 1963 he joined the Foreign Office and was posted to Ghana, but resigned in 1967 after becoming discomfited by what he saw as the FO’s colonialist approach to that country.

After studying for a master’s degree at the London School of Economics, he worked for the International Monetary Fund in the US (1967-71), and in 1972 moved to Williams & Glyn bank in London, which was when he bought his house in Southwark. For the last part of his career he worked as a troubleshooter at ICI, retiring in 1993.

In 1989, he was appointed MBE for political and public service. At Southwark he eventually became executive member for resources under the Lib Dem-Conservative coalition that ran the council until 2010.

Toby retained ownership of the house he had rescued from demolition, but spent much of his time at a cottage near Eridge in East Sussex which he had inherited.

In his spare time he made jams and hedgerow wines.

He is survived by 20 nieces and nephews.

Nicholas Johnson

The GuardianTramp

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