Tributes have been paid to former Birmingham Lord Mayor Ken Barton, who has died aged 83 .

The popular politician, who was mayor of Birmingham from 1981 to 1982, passed away on Saturday after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Hugh McCallion, who served as a Labour councillor in Birmingham alongside Mr Barton, described his close friend as an excellent mayor and “a real character”.

Mr McCallion, 79, said: “Ken was a really hard-working councillor – people thought the world of him.

“He was an excellent mayor, someone at the time said we should have Ken as permanent mayor.

“Whatever he did, he did it well and never let anyone down. He never failed his colleagues or constituents.

“He was a real comedian, but also a very serious politician.

“You could have nice things to say about him, but also funny things because that’s the kind of guy he was. He was a real character, but the other thing was just how much he helped the older people on his ward.

“He was always involved with the community. You could not get a better councillor for serving the people.”

Mr McCallion also recalled one of many amusing stories about Mr Barton’s time as a councillor.

“A staff member once lost the key to his filing cabinet at the council house,” he said.

“They turned the office upside down, but still could not find it. She was in a right panic when Ken came in. She told him about the key so Ken said ‘no problem’ and walked out.

“He came back with a screwdriver and jammed it into the cabinet sending the drawer flying and just said ‘there you go’.”

Mr Barton, who lived in Yardley with his wife Robin before she passed away, had worked as a skilled engineer at the Fisher and Ludlow car plant in Castle Bromwich.

Soon after joining the council, Mr Barton became head of leisure services, taking control of the city’s museums, libraries and art galleries, and eventually rose to the rank of deputy leader.

Mr Barton served as a city councillor on three separate occasions in a career spanning 30 years.

He was first elected as a councillor in May 1963, a position he held until May 1969.

In May 1970, Mr Barton was elected as a councillor for the Gravelly Hill ward which then became Stockland Green following the reorganisation of local government boundaries.

He remained in the post until May 1994 when he retired as a councillor and was made an honorary alderman by Birmingham City Council.

Mr Barton was also a keen footballer who played for parks teams in Birmingham and held a fearsome reputation as a tough-tackling defender.

“He played for some local teams, Sunday league stuff,” Mr McCallion added. “He was a defender who no-one ever got past because they were too frightened.

“He took his no-nonsense approach to football into politics. If he had a row with you he was straight and up-front.

“But the great thing about him was that he would let it go and that would be the end of it.”

Former Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Anita Ward also paid tribute to Mr Barton.

Coun Ward (Lab, Hodge Hill) said: “I was so sad to hear of the death of Ken Barton. A real trooper.”

Former Birmingham councillor Martin Brooks said: “Ken was a great advocate of making council services properly accessible to the people of Birmingham.

“He was one of the many ‘shop floor’ representatives that were abundant within Labour’s ranks at the time.

“A true comrade."