Rugby council stalwart to be given highest honour

Cllr James Shera
Cllr James Shera

A Rugby council stalwart and former mayor will be given the highest honour a local authority can award after decades of dedication.

Cllr James ‘Jim’ Shera MBE will be made an honorary freeman of the borough for his outstanding contribution to interfaith and race relations.

The Labour councillor is best known for his unbroken period representing Benn ward on Rugby Borough Council, having been re-elected for a record 10th consecutive term in 2014.

He was Rugby’s first Pakistani mayor in 1988, one of the Star of Pakistan’s first recipients in 1992, Warwickshire College’s new building’s entrance is named after him and he received an MBE in 2007.

“I am very grateful to councillors for endorsing me for this honour. It’s a privilege to be part of the community of Rugby,” Cllr Shera said.

“Rugby has been good to me. I arrived with no family and no friends, but decided to be part of society. This is my home.”

The title of honorary freeman can be awarded to persons of distinction and any persons who have rendered eminent services to the borough.

It was last awarded to an individual in 2009, but has more recently been awarded to the Women’s Rugby World Cup winning England team.

A ceremony during a special meeting of the council will confer the award at 2pm on Thursday, April 27.

The motion will be proposed by council leader Michael Stokes and seconded jointly by Labour group leader Clare Edwards and Liberal Democrat group leader Jerry Roodhouse.

Cllr Shera moved to Rugby in 1970, having hitchhiked from Pakistan to Belgium in the late 1960s to attend a Catholic university.

His first job was as a railway guard at Rugby station, before he studied for a postgraduate degree at the University of Warwick in 1976.

The councillor became a teacher at Newbold Middle School, later joining the county council education department until his retirement.

Cllr Shera’s commitment to interfaith relations led him to help found Rugby’s first inter-denominational church, Brownsover Community Church.

He was also appointed to an advisory board by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Three months after retiring, Cllr Shera was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“It hasn’t stopped me serving people and it won’t stop me serving people or my God,” he said.