A TIGHTLY contested fight to lead the Isle of Wight Council has ended with a new leader of the authority — and a new ruling party.

After the Island went to vote earlier this month, it was down to a meeting of the council yesterday (Thursday) to decide who would sit in the hot seat for the next four years.

Former council and Conservative group leader, Dave Stewart, lost his seat in the election to new councillor Claire Critchison, of the Green party, by 240 votes.

In the first meeting of the newly formed Isle of Wight Council Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox took the sought-after position by 20-18.

Before the meeting, it was uncertain who would challenge Cllr Steve Hastings, the new Conservative leader, for the role of council leader but when it came down to the votes the Conservatives fell short on getting their party leader into the coveted position.

Throwing his support behind Cllr Peacey-Wilcox, Cllr Ian Stephens said she held the values of the Isle of Wight Council, non-politically, but has now pulled together a cohesive cross-party group that will take the authority to another level.

Supporting Cllr Hastings, Cllr Clare Mosdell said he had already helped make a difference to the Island through his role in the cabinet and wanted to ensure there was openness and transparency across the council chamber.

Addressing Lib Dem and Green councillors, Cllr Modell said there was no shame in abstaining, 'remembering what their real political beliefs are', instead of being 'swallowed up in a rainbow'.

Responding to Cllr Mosdell's words, Lib Dem's Cllr Andrew Garratt said talk of promises after the last four years of a Conservative administration were hollow words.

Newly re-elected Cllr Daryll Pitcher said he was not going to speak but Cllr Mosdell's words did something to him and he urged councillors not to abstain.

He said: "Abstaining is not an option, it is like trying to be neutral between a fire engine and a fire. If you cannot make a decision on who the leader of the council should be, you should not be sitting here because you will not be able to make a decision on anything.

"The public voted for change; the Conservatives need to understand this and a period of opposition should be able to focus their minds."

In her first address as leader, Cllr Peacey-Wilcox said Covid-19 recovery, car parking charges and issues with planning and housing are priorities.

She said: "From tonight the Isle of Wight has a new political culture. One of political inclusion rather than competition."

Working with council staff and other public bodies as a team, Cllr Peacey-Wilcox said it will put the Island on a road to an ecologically sustainable future and a better quality of life.