Wolverhampton Council deputy leader Peter Bilson dies following illness
Tributes have poured in for the deputy leader of Wolverhampton Council following his death after nearly four decades of service to the city.
Peter Bilson served as a councillor since 1982 and was also a former Mayor of Wolverhampton.
The popular Bushbury South and Low Hill councillor was second in command at the city council and served as deputy to leader Ian Brookfield.
The authority said Councillor Bilson, who was 66, died at Dudley's Russells Hall Hospital on Saturday following a period of illness. He was also a huge Wolves fan and a season ticket holder for many years.
Councillor Brookfield, led tributes to his colleague and friend, saying he left behind a “great legacy of public service”.
He said: “This tragic news comes as a huge blow to everyone who was lucky enough to know and work with Councillor Bilson.
“He was devoted to the city of Wolverhampton and its residents which is shown by nearly four decades of public service.
“He played an instrumental role in the ongoing regeneration of the city and his work to improve housing in Wolverhampton, through the Decent Homes programme, the redevelopment of the Heath Town estate and with the council-owned housing company, WV Living.
“He also played a key role in our ongoing work to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.
“As we come to terms with this sad news our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Originally employed as a firefighter, then as a Trade Union Official, Councillor Bilson went on to serve as the chair of the Regional Fire Authority for six years before becoming the Millennium Mayor for 1999-2000 as Wolverhampton became a city.
Councillor Bilson also previously chaired a number of other community and business organisations including the board of directors of the Grand Theatre, and the Wolverhampton City Centre Company.
He leaves behind his wife, Nicky, and two children, James and Emma. The city council said funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.
Roger Lawrence led the Labour-run city council for 15 years until stepping down in 2019 and worked closely with Councillor Bilson during his time in charge.
He said: "I've known him for 40 years so it's very sad. Peter has been unwell, I was just hoping he would recover, get over it and come back.
"Peter was a giant of local politics. There are people living in council properties and private houses they would not be in if it wasn't for the work done on housing.
"We started council house building for the first time in more than 30 years and he was absolutely committed to getting people into good, quality homes.
"He did a massive amount on housing. Apart from that he worked in a number of different guises over the years. He is someone I will miss dreadfully."
Wolverhampton Council chief executive Tim Johnson said: “Councillor Bilson had a wealth of experience of involvement in various roles in local government, the fire service and the voluntary and community sector, over a period spanning many years.
“He was an extremely supportive councillor who cared passionately about doing his best for Wolverhampton and those who live here.
“His work over the years has been recognised nationally and he will be greatly missed by the people he served and staff alike.”
Pat McFadden, Labour councillor for Wolverhampton South East, said: "This is very sad news. Peter Bilson played a very big leadership role at the city council for many years.
"He has helped to steer the council through some difficult times and my thoughts are very much with his wife Nicky at this time."
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street also paid tribute, saying: "This is incredibly sad news. Peter was a dedicated councillor and a generous colleague who helped to establish the WMCA (West Midlands Combined Authority) in its infancy. My thoughts are with his friends and family."
Wendy Thompson, leader of the opposition Conservatives in Wolverhampton, said: "He has been a councillor in Wolverhampton for a long time and had a very long political career, and a very successful one.
"As a person he was very pleasant and very committed to his political beliefs.
"I was very sorry about his ill health, he did appear to be very poorly. Our sympathies are with his family because this is dreadful for them."