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Blackwood councillor Kevin Etheridge has said he is “overwhelmed” after being named Community Champion of the year at a prestigious awards ceremony.
The Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) and Churches, Charities and Local Authorities (CCLA) 2021 Councillor Awards celebrate local councillors across Wales and England.
Cllr Etheridge, who leads the Independent group of members on Caerphilly County Borough Council, was awarded the Community Champion Award for his “outstanding levels of commitment” and “drive in spearheading successful campaigns” such as improved road safety, better local hospital transport links, and against intrusive building projects.
Cllr Etheridge received 676 nominations for the award from residents across the county borough.
He said: “At the end of the day, this award is all about the community and I regard it as the people’s award. It is for the residents and all their hard work.”
Cllr Etheridge was also praised for his work on a campaign that has benefited many cancer sufferers.
In 2019, Cllr Etheridge was diagnosed with bowel cancer at the age of 60. Since then, he has endeavoured to raise awareness of the disease.
Cllr Etheridge was diagnosed early and the tumour, which was the size of a tennis ball, was removed from his bowel through surgery.
He said he initially ignored the screening test kit that he was sent and did not appreciate the importance of it at the time. He then went to his GP after feeling unwell and was later diagnosed by a cancer specialist.
Only 55% of people in Wales take up the offer of these tests, which are offered by the NHS and provided by Bowel Screening Wales.
Following his experience, Cllr Etheridge is now a strong advocate for screening tests.
He said: “It is essential to take the screening test to catch this awful disease at an early stage.”
Cllr Etheridge regularly takes part in free sessions run by Bowel Cancer UK to explain the symptoms.
Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, LGIU said: “I would like to extend a huge congratulations to Cllr Etheridge. We thank you for your service and look forward to hearing about your continued accomplishments in the future.”
There were more than 400 nominations from across Wales and England for the awards.
Cllr Etheridge was the only Welsh councillor up for the Community Champion award.
In May 2021, Cllr Etheridge stood as a candidate for Islwyn in the 2021 Senedd Elections and achieved the highest Independent vote in Wales.
The awards were held in Camden, London, on Wednesday, December 1. The ceremony was also broadcast live on YouTube.
The winners were decided by a panel of judges, which included senior councillors and officers.
Mr Carr-West said: “We are incredibly proud to unveil the winners of this year’s Cllr Awards. These councillors showcase the best of local government across England and Wales.
“During a time when our communities have experienced unprecedented challenges and pressures, these councillors are paving the way towards recovery.”
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