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'A giant of local politics': Tributes paid to Wolverhampton Council deputy leader Peter Bilson

A senior councillor who has died after nearly 40 years of service to Wolverhampton has been described as a “giant of local politics”.

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Mayor Peter Bilson with wife, Councillor Nicky Bilson at the Town Ball.

Peter Bilson, the deputy leader of the city council, died on Saturday following a period of illness.

Senior figures in the city paid tribute to Councillor Bilson following his death at the age of 66.

The Wolves fan with hero Steve Bull and his wife Nicky

The father-of-two was the council’s joint longest serving councillor.

He was also the council’s housing boss and was widely respected for his working in helping to improve living conditions for thousands of families in Wolverhampton.

He had served as a councillor since 1982 and represented the Bushbury South and Low Hill ward.

Fearless – Taking part in a charity abseil from the top of Mander House

Councillor Bilson was a Wolves season-ticket holder and served as Mayor at the turn of the century as Wolverhampton became a city.

He began his career as a firefighter and union official before turning to local politics.

The popular councillor served in various other roles including chair of the regional fire authority and chair of the board at the Grand Theatre.

He was also a strong voice for the city

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 was 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.

Peter taking a look at the recent Heath Town redevelopment

“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.

Always at the centre of key projects including here taking a look at plans for the Royal Hospital

“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 MP 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.”

The Mayor of Wolverhampton councillor Peter Bilson and his wife Nicky Bilson arrive at St. Peter's Collegate Church for a service of Wolverhampton Police commemorating 25 years of Community Policing

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 former mayor of the city

“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.”

Details of Councillor Bilson’s funeral will be announced at a later date, the council said.