Meet Nickie Allen, leader of Westminster City Council, who kick-boxes in her spare time.
The Conservative councillor used to think London was “scary” and only moved here for love.
Now she works out of the council’s newly refurbished Victoria Street offices and can’t ever imagine leaving the area.
Born in Cardiff, Allen joined the Tory party as a 19-year-old student at Exeter university.
She went on to work with William Hague in the Welsh Conservative Party press office before moving to Pimlico.
“I thought London was a scary place, so it’s bizarre really that I’m now having to run the centre of it,” she laughs.
“I moved to London for love, because I met my boyfriend, who then became my husband, when he worked at Conservative Central Ofﬁce and I was in Cardiff.
“The only way the relationship was going to blossom was if I moved to London,” she said.
Allen stood for election as a local councillor when heavily pregnant with her second child.
“I think having my daughter in 2004, I wanted to show her that women can succeed in public ofﬁce.
“It wasn’t part of the plan.
“She was two and I was seven months pregnant when I got elected, so that was interesting – a bit of a juggle!” she added.
Allen was elected council leader in 2016. She has since tackled gangs and domestic abuse against a backdrop of funding cuts.
“I’m not going to deny that we’ve had to make massive savings,” she says.
“But I fully believe that it doesn’t always have to be about money. It has to be about outcomes and people.”
She added: “I’m convinced that the vast majority of our children are brilliant and those who fall into the wrong paths have to be given a helping hand to get them out.”
Knife crime and rough sleepers
She went on: “We’ve all been teenagers and we’ve all made stupid mistakes.
“In this climate and situation the choices some young people can make can lead to serious problems, as we’re seeing with the issue of knife crime.”
Tackling the “causes of the main social issues” is the answer, she believes.
Rough sleeping is an issue that always rears its head, she added.
But the one issue that people notice is “the lack of police on the street”, she says.
Victoria on the up
And, Allen is very positive about the future. She has relished seeing radical transformation of the area over the past 15 years.
The council is building 2,000 affordable homes over the next four years. She said this was the largest council home building programme for a generation.
“I love Victoria and Pimlico because there’s a huge sense of community.
“That’s what I love about Pimlico; it’s everybody from my window cleaner to an earl, and everything in between,” she said.
“Central London is a brilliant place to bring up children because everything is on your doorstep.
“We’ve got outstanding parks, we’ve got brilliant schools, everything is easy to get to and I love the sense of community.
“I think it’s an absolute joy to live in this area and I can’t ever see myself leaving,” she declared.
Read the full interview with Nickie Allen in Victoria magazine here.