Tributes to ‘quiet campaigner’ who fought for better conditions in Sunderland

Florrie Otterson pictured outside her Thorney Close home.
Florrie Otterson pictured outside her Thorney Close home.
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TRIBUTES have been paid to a woman who battled for better living conditions as she strived to improve her community.

Mother-of-seven Florrie Otterson died at her home in Thorney Close, Sunderland, aged 83, after a long illness.

Florrie Otterson (left)

Florrie Otterson (left)

A Labour councillor in the 1970s and 80s, she was known as the “quiet campaigner” and hit the headlines when she vowed to go to jail over rent increases brought in by the controversial Housing Finance Act.

Along with three other Sunderland City Council councillors, she battled for a freeze on rent charges for people who were then council tenants.

She took on council planners in a bid to stop a subway being built under Chester Road.

Mrs Otterson also sat on the North East Electricity Consultative Council and helped set up a heating advice service, which was only the second of its kind in the country.

Devoted husband Alan joined her on the council, and they were re-elected as independent candidates in 1982, after a nail-biting 12-hour wait and six recounts in the May elections.

Son Jim also served as a councillor in St Chad’s Ward, aged 22, but stepped down in protest when his parents were not selected by their local Labour parties and decided to go it alone.

Voters felt so passionately about the issue that they threatened to boycott the next council elections and a 500-signature petition was drawn up in support.

Mrs Otterson stepped down in 1986, after serving the people of Thorney Close for about 10 years.

During her time in office, the family was hit by tragedy, when 17-year-old son Stephen died hours after starring in a school football match in September 1981.

It was later discovered the Bede School pupil had an undiagnosed rare heart condition.

In memory of Stephen, the family asked for donations to be made to the British Heart Foundation at Mrs Otterson’s funeral, which took place at St Mary and St Peter’s Church in Springwell Road on Friday.

She also lost son Bryan, who died in 2005, aged 54, after developing cancer.

Alan died on September 9 last year, aged 85.

Councillor Dave Allan, whose ward covers most of Mrs Otterson’s former patch, said: “I grew up in Thorney Close when she was a councillor, and she worked really hard for the people and, without a doubt, she was one of the best councillors that the people of Thorney Close ever had.”

She also leaves 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.