So here we are – 2 days before the election and despite being one of the few candidates standing who regularly blogs and tweets, I had forgotten to put my election pledges on my own blog! Oops but thank you for the people who have pointed this out and better late than never. I will be blogging again on some other election matters that have come up but this will be done after the polls close as a respect to the electorate.
I think we are all aware that people treat election pledges from politicians with some degree of scepticism but even so, we should have a go and along with some context, here are mine:-
1) Help to advise residents wanting to set up their own community campaigns
For the last 12 years, I have worked in the field of community development which basically means helping different geographic communities in Surrey to become safer and stronger. The stronger bit means to set up community groups, forums and activities which bring people together. Sometimes this might be to address youth issues (for example by setting up local youth groups) or it might be a community litter pick or to set up a new Residents Association or Neighbourhood Watch. Note here that by helping to advise, it means giving them the tools to go on and do it themselves perhaps through training, funding advice or general guidance. Of course, there are times when community groups will have a different viewpoint or agenda to mine or the Council but even so, it’s always better to help them to put their best case forward and this is what being a community champion is all about.
2) Visit all local schools in the area at least once a term and talk to students where invited.
This is something that I feel passionate about and would absolutely commit. Again, I have visited many schools in this area and elsewhere in Surrey and they really want to have a good relationship with community reps. All the schools I know are always very keen to have people coming in and delivering assemblies, Citizenship talks, helping out at their fayres or events and just basically being a community friend to them. It is not about doing formal tours or visits as some people wrongly think but about popping in occasionally, helping where you can and being known as their approachable link if the need arises.
Again as personal examples of what this pledge means to me, I have delivered assemblies to young children bringing in teddy bears (called Gordon and Jordan) to help with simple safety messages and taken litter education sessions involving simple games. In another school, I was asked to go and just play football occasionally at lunchtime with some of the children as all the staff were female and this also really helped their OFSTED by showing community engagement.
More locally, it meant joining with my church and helping to serve soup to families and be a steward for The Orchards Bonfire night. In Collingwood, it was a pleasure to go in and speak with their Year 8 students and help with their Citizenship classes when they were studying their local community and it felt a bit like Question Time! I would be more than happy to do this in Kings and Tomlinscote as well and know that many Surrey Heath politicians of all parties feel the same. Being an ex-youth leader does help – it’s not for everyone!
Every school would like something different but that is the joy of local schools and why they need good close links with elected members. Schools are not keen if it is just a stuffy uninterested cllr wandering around on a tour but they do want people able to enthuse and engage with their pupils and students in a real way.
Incidentally this does not involve being a Governor which is a very important but completely different role. Personally, I would want to link with all schools and not be more linked to one than others so if elected, I would not become a governor myself at any individual school.
3) Set up a monthly e-mail newsletter for residents giving details of community events and County updates.
This is again something that I have regularly done in a professional capacity. It’s a simple task starting with the public contacts of all of the community and sporting groups within the area and their public contacts before widening out to the local residents. We already have local variants of this in Surrey Heath and it is easy to set up quickly.
4) Regular patrols of the area so that all potholes are quickly reported and our roads are sorted out.
Again this is a very simple pledge. I already walk a lot around the area for various community activities. Regular patrols are also undertaken by the local Police and Housing Association for their roles and local politicians should therefore be doing the same by physically walking around their area on a regular basis and seeing what residents see. Again this is something that I already do as indeed do many other politicians of all parties around the country as potholes and general environmental issues are such an important doorstep issue to our residents.
5) Speak out at County Hall to ensure proper provision of social care and mental health services in our area.
Unfortunately, social care and mental health rarely hit any political agendas but are crucially important issues. We have an ageing population and yet real problems around the provision of local social care particularly around adults with learning difficulties. In terms of mental health, around 1 in 4 of the population will personally experience this themselves. I expect that the vast majority of people reading this blog will know someone in one or both of these categories. This pledge is about gathering all of these experiences and making sure that they are fully heard in County Hall when decisions are made about funding, services, provision. Again this is an issue where I have some professional expertise and personal experience and am keen to try and address what is seen as “remote” decision making by service users and their families.
And then finally….
6) Would only vote to put up Council Tax if wasteful spending in non-essential areas has been removed.
This year, both Surrey County Council and Surrey Heath Borough Council put up Council Tax meaning around £30 extra a year to the average resident. At Surrey Heath, I was one of only two councillors who voted against this increase this year. The reason for doing so is because although councils do have real funding pressures and government cuts (to which I sympathise), there are still some areas of waste that have yet to be removed. I have already blogged in detail about the examples in Surrey Heath and therefore rarely find myself in agreement with such people as Eric Pickles and David Cameron! That is not to say that I will never vote for Council Tax increases and indeed have done so in the past but does mean analysing budgets line by line and addressing wasteful areas of spending before asking residents to dig even more deeply into their pocket.
So there we have it – 6 simple pledges and nothing too contentious there at all. In fact, these pledges could probably have been written by a politician of any party or none! I hope that regardless of whether I am elected or not, these 6 themes are taken forward over the next 4 years as they are really important to our community.