COMMUNITY leaders have paid tribute to an outgoing MP who is due to step down after more than two decades.

After representing Southampton Test as MP for more than 24 years, Alan Whitehead has signalled to the Labour Party that he will not be standing for reselection as a candidate at the next election.

The 71-year-old said he may be 73 by the time the next election takes place and added: “I have now decided that I could not give a further five-year commitment to the role of MP at that point much though I might want to continue in principle.”

Formerly the leader of Southampton City Council and a Professor of Public Policy at the Southampton Institute, Mr Whitehead was first elected to parliament in 1997.

Daily Echo: Alan Whitehead at Stoneham.Alan Whitehead at Stoneham.

Now leaders from across the city have paid tribute to the Labour politician and his work throughout his time in parliament and on the council.

Southampton Itchen MP, Royston Smith, told the Echo: “Alan Whitehead has had a remarkable career in politics. I have enjoyed working with him, albeit from a different political perspective.”

MP Caroline Nokes, who represents Romsey and Southampton North, said she is “very sad to see Alan step down” adding “we have always worked well together on issues in the City and although we disagree on politics he is a good and kind man.

“Undoubtedly we will miss his expertise on environmental issues, which were his main interest in Parliament. I certainly hope he enjoys his retirement and he can reflect on a long time in service to the City of Southampton.”

Leader of Southampton Labour Group, Cllr Satvir Kaur said Mr Whitehead had been “an outstanding public servant” to Southampton representing it with “diligence and integrity for nearly 40 years”.

Daily Echo: Alan Whitehead and Cllr Satvir Kaur. By: Chris Moorhouse.Alan Whitehead and Cllr Satvir Kaur. By: Chris Moorhouse.

“He should be rightfully proud of his achievements and the legacy that he leaves behind. Our City is better off as a result of his unwavering dedication and hard work.

“On behalf of the Labour Party and all of Southampton’s communities, I would simply like to say, thank you. Alan will remain as Southampton Test’s MP until the next general election and I know that he will continue to support and fight for Southampton until his very last day.”

Leader of the council, Cllr Daniel Fitzhenry said he has known Alan Whitehead since he was first elected to the city’s youth parliament in 2001.

“Whilst we perhaps disagree on our politics, I know Alan to be a very loyal, hardworking, champion for Southampton,” Cllr Fitzhenry said. “We wish him all the best for the future and thank him for his many years of service to the city.”

Speaking on Twitter Eastleigh MP, Paul Holmes described him as “Unfailingly courteous and always standing up for his constituents.

“As Alan’s opponent in the 2017 election you’d be hard pressed to find a more decent and honourable character in politics."