IN HER first interview since the announcement that she has been awarded a life peerage, council leader Debbie Wilcox said when she does stand down from her current role, she will do so knowing Newport is a “better place than before”.

Cllr Wilcox was created a life peer in former Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation honours list and could take up her seat in the House of Lords this autumn.

Speaking to the South Wales Argus, she revealed that she will not seek re-election as a councillor of the Gaer ward in the 2022 local election but would not be drawn on when she will stand down as leader of the council.

She said: “I do not know when that will be because as far as I know it is a blank sheet of paper. I will continue as long as I can. I genuinely will be leaving with a tear in my eye. I have loved this job.

South Wales Argus:

(Cllr Debbie Wilcox)

“I do intend to remain as a backbencher to serve the constituents of the Gaer.

“I will step down in 2022. I do not intend to stand after that time because there will be limits on what I can do.

She added: “I intend to remain in Newport most nights when I enter the House of Lords. I do not intend to get a flat. If I have to stay due to late meetings, I will find a cheap hotel.”

And regarding her leadership of the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), she said: “You can only retain that role if you are leader of a council.

“I intend, if I am able to, to continue my association with the WGLA. I will be the first leader of the WGLA to be elevated to the House of Lords. I am hoping to serve in some way as a representative of Welsh Local Government in the House of Lords.”

Since becoming leader in 2016, Cllr Wilcox said one of her ambitions was to leave the city a “better place”.


She then spoke of her achievements over the last three years, saying: “The first highlight has to be winning the election in 2017. I took over as leader and 11 months later we had an election. Winning 31 seats and retaining the Labour administration was an achievement.

South Wales Argus:

(Cllr Debbie Wilcox with Cllr Gail Giles at the unveiling of a school)

“There are a lot of developments happening in Newport: we have the continued regeneration by Pobl in Commercial Street, increases in examination results and attendance rates at Newport schools, and generally the drive and ambition to building a better Newport.

“I have put the building blocks into that.

“We have received a lot of investment in the Cardiff Regeneration Scheme, too.

“The development of the city centre hotel in the heart of the city is also a highlight.”

She added: “These are the worst times for the public realm, we have never had such a lengthy period of austerity since the time of the Napoleonic wars.

“Trying to run the city with no money has been difficult. But I have tried to look and work outside of the box.

“I am leaving this place a better place than when I found it. That was always my ambition.”

Commenting on her peerage, Cllr Wilcox described it as a “wonderful opportunity”.

“It felt surreal at first because people like me do not get things like this normally,” she said. “I am an ordinary person. I just never thought something like that would happen to me.

"I am celebrating the fact that local government has been recognised.

“I am honoured, humbled, shocked and delighted by the announcement.

"But ultimately I am very excited because it is an opportunity to continue my public service work and to enjoy that debate and discussion and be part of something that is really important."

When she is elevated to the House of Lords, her main focuses will be local government and education.

She also expressed her hopes that Newport will appear somewhere in her new title, saying: “I would like to keep Newport somewhere in the title. It is my adopted home and it has been very good to me.”