TOWN hall chiefs have spoken of their shock and sadness after a councillor died suddenly.

Tributes have been made to Hulton ward Labour councillor Darren Whitehead, who died in the early hours of this morning, aged 49.

The circumstances of his death have not yet been confirmed but it is believed he had suffered a heart attack.

He leaves a partner, Rebecca, and children Anna, aged 17, Ben, aged 15, and Emily, aged nine. 

Cllr Linda Thomas, deputy leader of Bolton Council, said: "We are all shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of our friend and colleague Darren Whitehead.

"In the short time he has been on the council he served his constituents with commitment and diligence.

"He was elected in May, 2016 — a tireless campaign and a victory he rightly took great pride in.

"Darren was well respected across communities, not only in his ward but across the town with the charitable groups he supported.

"For anyone that knew him, even for the shortest time, the energy he would bring into every room he walked into was tangible.

"He will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him and we send our deepest condolences to his family and friends."

As a mark of respect, the union flag on the town hall flew at half-mast yesterday Cllr Whitehead, who lived in Fourth Avenue, Heaton, was formerly an assistant solicitor at Fieldings Porter in Silverwell Street.

He was trained as a counsellor, volunteered at a GP practice and was a trustee at children’s charity Homestart.

After his election on to Bolton Council, Cllr Whitehead was involved in a number of community issues, most recently the area's problem with illegal encampments.

Fellow Hulton ward Labour councillor Shafaqat Shaikh described his colleague as a 'proud' and 'intelligent' man.

He said: "He will be sadly missed. He was a great person to work with but unfortunately he has been taken away too early — he was only 49.

"He was really easy to get on with and I can only think of good things about him.

"He was a very proud, intelligent and nice man to work with and he was proud to represent the people of Hulton and the community Bolton.

"It is a sad loss both to me and to Bolton."

The sadness at his loss was echoed on social media, with people describing Cllr Whitehead as a 'great man' and a 'genuine guy'.

Speaking on Facebook, Cllr Sean Hornby, leader of UKIP, said: "Shocked to hear about his sudden and premature death. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family."