A city councillor living with terminal cancer has been forced to stand down due to his deteriorating condition.

Jason Smith bravely revealed to Newcastle City Council colleagues last month that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer and had been given only months to live. The Lemington representative had been hoping to see out his term of office, which is due to end in May, but has now decided to tender his resignation in order to spend more time with his family.

In a letter to local authority chief executive Pam Smith, the 50-year-old wrote that he could “no longer balance the needs of my family, fulfilling my role as councillor to the level that Lemington ward deserves, and fighting the cancer”. The council also announced on Tuesday that Mr Smith, the founder of the Newcastle Independents party, will be made an honorary alderman of the city next week.

Mr Smith, who was diagnosed just days before his 50th birthday in March this year, said: “When I stood for election in 2021, I committed to serving a full term of office and could never have imagined that I might not be well enough to serve the full three years. As you know, when I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March, my intention was to continue to serve Lemington Ward and keep my promise to serve a full term.

“While it has been a struggle at times, I have been able to continue to deliver for Lemington. However, in the past few weeks, my health has deteriorated as a result of a complication of pancreatic cancer and it is likely that I will need further treatment in the weeks ahead that is likely to impact on my ability to undertake my role as councillor.

Newcastle councillor Jason Smith, who has terminal pancreatic cancer.
Newcastle councillor Jason Smith, who has terminal pancreatic cancer.

“I have now concluded that I can no longer balance the needs of my family, fulfilling my role as councillor to the level that Lemington ward deserves, and fighting the cancer. However determined I am to continue as councillor, it is clear that it is no longer possible.”

Mr Smith has enjoyed a storied career as a civil servant, which included working the the Department for Health during the latter days of the Major government in the 1990s. He subsequently returned to the North East and worked in public health, playing a role in the establishment of anti-smoking body Fresh and in the rollout of the five-a-day campaign into schools.

An eclectic political life has seen him hold membership of both the Labour and Conservative parties, as well as chairing the Newcastle Tories, before then forming what was originally known as Newcastle First with the aim of serving people who wanted an alternative to the national parties. The party first stood candidates at 2011’s local elections and won a seat on the council for the first time in 2019, after which it was rebranded as the Newcastle Independents.

Since announcing his diagnosis, Coun Smith has been campaigning to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer – which has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers, with more than half of patients dying within just three months. He added: “It has been a huge honour to serve as councillor for the ward I grew up in and where I have lived for almost all of my life, and I am proud of the things I have been able to achieve in the 17 years I have been involved in local politics in Newcastle.”

City council leader Nick Kemp, who has nominated Mr Smith for the title of honorary alderman, said: “No one could have failed to be moved by the courageous speech Jason gave at the last city council raising awareness of pancreatic cancer. I know Jason has been ill for some time but true to his nature he has committed himself to the residents of Lemington throughout.

“Jason has been a kind and dignified political opponent and I respect both his service to the city but also the manner in which he has approached this. He will be a missed in the council chamber, a miss to his constituents but clearly and most importantly to his lovely family."

No by-election is expected be held to fill the vacancy in Lemington, as it falls within six months of the next scheduled local elections in May.

Join our Breaking News and Top Stories WhatsApp community

Join our Breaking News and Top Stories WhatsApp community for all the latest news direct to your phone.

To join you need to have WhatsApp on your device. All you need to do is choose which community you want to join, click on the link and press 'join community'.

No one will be able to see who is signed up and no one can send messages except the ChronicleLive team.

We also treat our community members to special offers, promotions, and adverts from us and our partners.

If you don't like our community, you can check out any time you like. To leave our community click on the name at the top of your screen and choose 'exit group'.

If you’re curious, you can read our privacy notice.