TRIBUTES have been paid to one of Cumbria’s highest ranking councillors after he collapsed and died at his home.

Ian Stewart, deputy leader of Cumbria County Council, was found after 1pm on Sunday in the conservatory of his Rose Hill Grove home at Sandside.

His wife of 33 years, Jan, to whom he was a full-time carer, said she found him beside a rowing machine.

Mrs Stewart, aged 67, said his passing had been very quick and he had been in good spirits.

She said: “Ian loved working as a councillor. People did not realise the hours he put into it - still doing emails at gone 9.30pm, having been in Carlisle since 8.30am, several days a week.

“He always wanted to do something for the community and he didn’t just talk - he listened as well. He didn’t always have the answers but he always knew how to point you in the right direction.”

The couple have a son, Tim, who had celebrated his 33rd birthday on Saturday.

Tim said: “His interest was in things that worked and made people’s lives better.

“He didn’t give a damn whether it was politically convenient or not. If it worked, it worked.

“We had millions of hours of political discussion.

“He despised those who went into local politics as something to do as a hobby in retirement. He didn’t like those who didn’t set out to achieve anything. He dedicated himself to it like a profession.”

Born as an only child in Stretford to parents, Charles Edward Stewart “Ted” and Florence May, Mr Stewart was a devoted follower of Lancashire County Cricket and Manchester United.

His childhood home backed onto Man United’s old training ground.

After a short time with the Yorkshire Bank, he also studied politics and modern history at Bangor University, moving to Sandside in 1993.

Mr Stewart was also cabinet member for finance at Cumbria County Council, and also served on South Lakeland District Council.

He was also a member of Beetham Parish Council.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron, paid tribute to a friend of nearly 20 years.

“If you didn’t know him well you would think he had a tough exterior but actually he was a very tender man,” he said.

“He was very kind and always operated with the best of motives.

“He just got stuff done. You knew exactly where you were with him.”

Ulverston councillor James Airey, who leads the Conservatives on the county council, said: “Shocked and saddened by his untimely passing. A giant in local politics. A worthy political opponent but a dear and close friend. The council chambers will never be the same.”