It’s been a roller-coaster 12 months, but this week IW Council Leader, Lora Peacey Wilcox, claimed: “It’s full steam ahead now.”
The IW Observer caught up with Lora shortly after the passionate royalist had welcomed Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex to the Island as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Her inbox is full as she looks to the future and the problems Islanders face with major issues to tackle such as poverty, housing and planning. She says the Alliance is still getting to grips with taking over from the Conservatives at County Hall last May.
Lora said: “We are still adapting. We had a number of new councillors, people who had never experienced this before. It’s taken a while for them to find their feet and fit into their various roles.
“The first thing we had to do was make a corporate plan with 17 individuals, all with their own ideas, and that was a challenge.
“We were faced with a variety of issues including the IW Speed Trials, Ryde Interchange, Chillerton & Rookley Primary School and parking issues. On top of which we were only just getting back to a ‘new normal’ day-to-day basis following the lockdown. We had a lot on our plate before we could even draw breath and see what we could get under our belts and start to achieve things.
“We know there are a lot of challenges over the next 12 months. There is a massive crisis looming with poverty on the Island and we need to work with many organisations to help our residents.
“We have to look at affordable housing for Islanders and we know there are also concerns with planning. We also need to concentrate on renewable energy and see how we can become more self-sustainable.
“One thing we can do is to spend as much of the council’s money locally as possible. That is so important because, when money stays on the Island, it helps to build the Island’s economy. There is more red tape than you would believe but we are making progress. We still have to demonstrate that we are getting value for money of course, but I know that Island firms can offer that. We just have to try to find ways of making the procurement process simpler and more accessible for Island companies.”
Despite having 17 individuals working as an Alliance, Lora says they are moving forward together and focussed on their aims.
She added: “It is important that the cabinet members remember they are not parochial, they are acting on behalf of the IW Council. We are united as a team and we are trying to do our absolute best for the Island people. It’s all about being resilient as we look ahead. We really do care about our Island.”
It is clear that Lora derives much of her determination and ability to weather political storms from her family and the strength of her marriage. It seems somehow appropriate that she and John will celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary on June 6 – D Day, regarded by as a pivotal day in World War II. Will the pint-sized leader of our council (she’s just 4′ 11″) win battles for the Island? Time will tell, but it would be foolhardy to dismiss her chances.