Council leader fights cancer

By Richard Marsden

SHEFFIELD Council leader Jan Wilson is facing the toughest battle of her life as it was revealed she is suffering lung cancer.

Following the shock announcement, messages of support have flooded in for the 62-year-old Labour councillor who has overseen the transformation of the city.

But Coun Wilson - who was diagnosed before Christmas - has pledged to stay on in charge of the authority as she fights the disease.

A Sheffield Council statement read: "Coun Jan Wilson, leader of Sheffield City Council, has been diagnosed with lung cancer.

"Coun Wilson has been receiving treatment for her condition but will be continuing her work as leader of the council and as ward councillor for Manor Castle. She will be working closely with the deputy leader Coun Steve Jones to ensure that during her periods of treatment the leadership of the council continues to function effectively.

"Everyone at the council sends their best wishes to Jan and wishes her every success with her treatment."

Friends and colleagues of the mum-of-two, who has lived in Sheffield throughout her life, say they are confident her grit and determination will help her recover.

Sheffield Central Labour MP Richard Caborn said: "I was sad to hear the news but if anyone can pull through this situation it is Jan Wilson, a woman of tremendous tenacity and resilience. I wish her well for the future."

Lord Mayor of Sheffield Coun Jackie Drayton said: "Everyone is thinking of Jan and her family. She is an absolutely fantastic woman and a wonderful leader of this city.

"She has shown tremendous determination and true grit, taking Sheffield through difficult times to the wonderful things that are happening at the moment. It was only a few weeks ago she was alongside me at the opening of the new Sheaf Square and concourse at the railway station.

"I think she is an inspirational woman and she has courage and commitment. She will fight this cancer."

Coun Anne Smith, leader of the Conservative group, said: "Jan came to see me before Christmas and told me about her illness. I was shocked because she looked so well.

"Although we have political differences I regard Jan as a personal friend. She is a committed leader and always puts the interests of Sheffield first.

"I am sure she will fight this illness with the same determination she has shown when fighting for her constituents and this city. Jan is respected by people from all walks of life and is immensely committed to Sheffield's regeneration.

"All of us will raise a glass when she has had her treatment and is well again."

Lib Dems leader Coun Paul Scriven added: "When issues like this arise, political differences are forgotten."

And Coun Jillian Creasey, Green Party group leader said: "She is a very gifted leader and we wish her the very best of luck."

Coun Wilson grew up in Norton. After starting her work at Samuel Osborne's steel works in the early 1960s, she campaigned for equal pay for women.

Coun Wilson later volunteered for the Citizens' Advice Bureau, where she remained until after the Millennium, managing its debt support unit in the city.

She became a councillor in 1992. Coun Wilson had stints chairing planning and education committees, before becoming council leader in 1998 after her predecessor Mike Bower lost his seat.