A “dedicated” former council leader who chalked up more than 20 years public service has died.

Di Collins, who led Epping Forest Council between 2006 and 2012, died on Tuesday aged 81, the local authority said

The flag on the council offices in Epping High Street will be lowered on Thursday as a mark of respect to the former leader.

Cllr David Stallan, chairman of Epping Forest Council, was among the councillors to pay tribute to Mrs Collins.

Cllr Stallan said: “My deepest condolences as Chairman of the council go out to her family for their sad loss.

“It was an absolute pleasure and an honour to serve in Di’s cabinet as housing portfolio holder. She was well respected politically across the chamber and for her charitable work across the district.

“Her passing is awful news and she will be sorely missed across large parts of the community in Epping Forest.”

Mrs Collins first became a councillor in 1991 and was elected to represent the Epping Hemnall ward, a role in which she served until 1999.

In 2001, she was elected to represent the Passingford ward and continued to do so until her retirement in 2012.

She became Leader of the local Conservative group in 2004 and then went on to become leader of Epping Forest Council in 2006, a role she undertook for 6 years.

Mrs Collins was a member of many committees and panels, she also represented the council on many outside organisations.

She also supported a large number of local charities and community groups, including serving as chairman of the Epping Forest Primary Care Trust, chairman of the board of governors of Epping Forest College and governor of Epping Junior School.

Mrs Collins also worked fundraising for national charities such as the RNLI and local concerns including St Clare Hospice in Hastingwood.

Her work for the council and for charities saw her named as Epping Forest’s citizen of the year in 2013.

Council leader, Cllr Chris Whitbread said: “I’m saddened to learn of Di’s passing. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this very sad time.

“As leader, she was instrumental in shaping the Council in to what it is today and we are indebted to her for this.

“She was dedicated to the people of Epping Forest and Di will be greatly missed not only by her colleagues but for the work she has done for the people across the district.”