Cookies information uses cookies to make the site simpler. Find out more about the cookies we use.

Close banner

Councillors pay emotional tributes to former Council Leader Pete Edwards

Published: 19 October 2021

Karime Hassan and Pete Edwards Karime Hassan and Pete Edwards

Councillors have paid tributes to former Leader Pete Edwards during an emotional meeting at the Corn Exchange.

The former Leader, who served the city as a councillor for 30 years, died recently in hospital after a short illness.

During his time as Leader, from 2011 until he stood down in 2019, Exeter underwent major changes and significantly expanded its economy.

The former bus driver introduced the Living Wage at the Council and was key in attracting big retailers such as John Lewis and IKEA to the city.

As Leader he was responsible for many of the city’s successes including bring the 2015 Rugby World Cup to Exeter and the Radio 1 Big Weekend to the city in 2016.

Council Leader Phil Bialyk led the tributes. He said: “Pete has been a friend of mine since 1974. I first met him when I was allocated to be his bus conductor for a week.

“I got to know him and our friendship matured. He approached me to come along to a union meeting after identifying me as someone who always had something to say about what was going on in the company.

“He introduced me to join the Labour Party that year and he encouraged me to stand for the Council. In the early 1980s we became newly elected councillors. We worked together in the union representing bus drivers, engineering staff and clerical workers and I learnt a lot about how to talk to people and deal with their issues through Pete.

“Pete worked hard day in and day out to represent those bus workers in Exeter. Serving people in Exeter is what he did all his life and he continued to do that - in his own way - until the end.

“He really was a great friend. He has a terrific family, and it has been my great privilege to have known him as one of my friends for all of those years.”

Cllr Emma Morse said: “I have known Pete for as long as I can remember. In some ways it is only after he has gone that we realise how great his legacy is, from swimming pools to John Lewis and IKEA, and realising many of the dreams we had for this city since the 1980s. He stuck with things and got them finished.

“We owe a lot to him - he is a legend and a true Exonian. He believed in the city and he loved it. The outpouring of grief we have seen in the city, like the show of support the fans gave him at Exeter City on Saturday, has been extraordinary.

“He promoted women and young people because he believed in them. Pete was loyal to this council, to his friends and to all of us. His loyalty was unshakable. And he loved his family fiercely. We are going to miss you Pete – you are a star.”

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter said: “What comes across in the tributes is his commitment, dedication and service. We had our differences of course, but he made decisions and he carried them through – he really was a leader.”    

Councillors heard the former bus driver recently attended the opening of the Council-funded new Exeter Bus Station and saw the building of St Sidwell’s Point Leisure Centre, which is due to open in the coming months.

He launched a programme of building new council houses to the low energy Passivhaus standard, cutting carbon emissions and lifting residents out of fuel poverty.

Cllr Rachel Sutton said: “I was one of the women encouraged by him to take on responsibility and to stand as his Deputy Leader. He had confidence in me and faith in me, and I thank him for that.

“St Sidwell’s Point was his vision. He passionately believed that the people of Exeter deserved the best quality. He thought that the taxpayers of Exeter, who may not be able to afford membership at one of the private health clubs with swimming pools, deserved to have access to the same quality, if not better.

“He was right - and the people of Exeter are going to enjoy using that pool, and the children of Exeter who learn to swim there will enjoy it. If people want to call it Pete’s pool then, that’s fine with me.”

Cllr Rob Hannaford added: “He passionately wanted future generations to have a better start in life, to have well paid jobs and somewhere secure to live – those things were at the core of his being.”

Share this page on...