I have always been interested in politics. My father worked passionately as a community leader for 20 years. He wanted to serve others and taught us we had a moral duty to give back and make a difference to the lives of others. I originally wanted to work in Whitehall as a civil servant, however, I ended up working with street children in India as part of my degree and decided I wanted to be a social worker. I now work as a team manager for children services in Birmingham. I love what I do and work with a great team. My father introduced me to canvassing in my teens and, together with the late Lord King, was a great role model. They encouraged me to enter politics. I campaigned locally and became involved in local projects on a voluntary basis. I eventually became a councillor in 2012 and am currently the cabinet member for public health and protection which is a really exciting portfolio. I still volunteer and have been involved in the Sikh Network trying to encourage more Sikh and female representation in politics. I have even applied to be on The Apprentice, just missing out on the finalists stage. As a mother of two young girls I am regularly asked how I balance all this. You have to love what you do. I feel honoured that I can serve others and being in local government has enabled me to do that in a more meaningful way than I could ever imagine.
I trained as a local journalist then decided I wanted to find a way to do something practical to solve problems rather than write about them. I started working for my constituency MP as a caseworker and stood as a local councillor. I’m determined to get the best for my town and to make sure resources are concentrated on the issues and services that matter most to local people. I volunteer for Launceston Memory Café which supports people with dementia and their carers, and I am training as a counsellor because being elected has shown me the phenomenal need for greater mental health service provision. As well as being a councillor I’m a world champion powerlifter competing in the British Drug Free Powerlifting Association (BDFPA) and hold the national bench press record in my weight category.
I started in local politics because I was made redundant from my job working in the mines. I got into voluntary work while unemployed and really enjoyed it, and knew how much more I could achieve for my area if I was elected as a councillor. I have now been a councillor for Stoke-on-Trent City Council for 14 years, and it’s hard work but I genuinely love it. Amongst my proudest achievements are the eight years of hard graft that it took to transform two local parks. I worked with the community from consultation to completion of fantastic new facilities that are loved and used by young people every day. Being a councillor with an Independent Group means that we are not subject to any party whip – we are allowed to vote as individuals, and I always vote with my conscience. If you tell the truth, speak from the heart and talk sense, then people will listen. I am proud because I think of my role as councillor as a full-time job. I go to great lengths to represent everyone in my ward and I am passionate about our city. I want to thank the residents who keep voting me in. I will continue to serve this area for as long as they will have me and for as long as my health allows.
I have been interested in politics ever since I can remember, so it was never in doubt that I would study politics at university. Since then I have never looked back. When I finished my degree, I was lucky enough to start my career for Tourism South East, working with the local community and businesses as their main link to government, representing them on all the main issues that affected them. I ran for election to Worthing Borough Council in May 2011, five years later I am Leader of the council and enjoying every minute of the challenge. What I love most about what I do is knowing that I really have an impact on residents’ everyday lives, from making sure vital services such as the weekly bin collection, grass cutting and hygiene inspections are protected to driving forward plans for regenerating the areas of the borough that need improving. My enthusiasm has only grown greater over the last five years, after seeing and experiencing the real difference that local councillors can make. And I love Worthing. I chose to raise my family here and as a resident I can see all of the things that I want to do to make my area even better. I have three daughters – the third was born just five weeks ago – so when I’m not working you can find me with them on Worthing’s fantastic beach or in the swimming pool and playgrounds.
When I was 15 I volunteered with the Liberal Democrats in Stratford-upon-Avon. I used to help a councillor called David Bruce. He was blind so I had to help him around his ward as he knocked on doors and talked to residents. I was so inspired by the changes he made to people’s lives that I wanted to get involved myself and make things happen. Is being a councillor what I expected? Yes and no. I expected the long hours and the satisfaction from helping people. However, I didn’t expect the various blocks I would have to face just to make my residents’ lives easier. It is sometimes quite hard to get even the most simple of tasks done. Having said that, I like the feeling you get when you complete a big piece of casework. If you can take an issue and just run with it until you reach a successful conclusion, that’s the best feeling ever. Even better than performing a gig with my band in front of a huge crowd! I sing/shout in a Ska band called ‘The Stopouts’ and we’ve just finished recording our first full-length album. Our music is quite political, but most importantly it’s easy to dance to.
I became a councillor through being a local activist for youth services. There was a change of political leadership of the council in 2006 and I felt that the policies that they were pursuing meant that crucial local services were being lost, services that had kept kids off the streets. This triggered my interest in local politics. At the time, the local Labour Party was recruiting young community leaders who were sympathetic to their policies and principles. I had been a party member for a few years and was keen to get involved with local campaigns. I really enjoy being part of a group of people committed to their local area and delivering services that enhance and shape the borough. It’s great to have a role that involves championing local causes, having the power to use lateral thinking to tackle major problems when capital is so low, and having the chance to listen and learn from local people who either have personal concerns or a collective will. Lack of housing is the biggest challenge. Every London borough has thousands of people on their waiting lists, and most of the people who come to my surgeries are in desperate need of housing.
I became a councillor because I wanted to make a difference locally. As a relative newcomer to the area I could see so much potential. I contacted a councillor I had got to know through my membership of the local neighbourhood forum and let her know I was interested in standing for election. As a councillor, I enjoy joining up with others who are like-minded and want to make a difference. The enthusiasm of colleagues keeps me motivated, as does seeing change happen and trying to improve life for the people who are most in need in our community. I can only fit this in with a very busy full-time job because I live, work and do my council work locally. I’m chief executive of Horse + Bamboo, a professional theatre company which creates and tours shows regionally, nationally and internationally. Running an arts organisation is very challenging, particularly with the current cuts and funding difficulties, so I’m very familiar with the local impact of national policies. The challenges I face as a councillor include accepting that change can rarely be made overnight and finding genuine ways of consulting people – particularly those who are ‘hard to reach’.
As someone who grew up in London of Irish parents, I always felt a little disengaged from being ‘English’ and from my community. Where we lived, most people were from non-English backgrounds where communities kept themselves to themselves. When I finished my degree I started working for my local MP and realised just how much he helped locally and helped the community to feel like a community. I went on to work in councils and realised that most councillors want to help and make positive changes in their communities. It was due to working with some amazing councillors, who went the extra mile to help, that I made up my mind to stand for the council. Locally, for me, it wasn’t about wanting to change things but wanting to improve them. As a relatively young councillor from my background I thought I could bring a different perspective rather than the older, male, middle class perspective (no offence intended!). I’m an Irish dancing teacher and a councillor, and I also have a ‘day job’ in another local authority, so being organised is a must. I manage by keeping a diary and just keeping going! I really enjoy helping people and changing the public’s perception of what type of person a councillor is.
I arrived in the UK aged 11, having lost my father six months earlier. I could hardly speak a word of English but I was determined to learn, to succeed and make Britain my new home. Since then I have enjoyed plenty of success. I have three beautiful children and was determined to work hard to secure their future. I became a councillor because giving something back to the community is extremely important to me. I believe that if we all played our part and worked together we would make our world a better place. My family encouraged me so I learnt more about what being a councillor meant and what it entailed. I was first elected in 2007. As a councillor I have helped many local residents to improve their daily lives, from ensuring their rubbish is collected on time to tackling difficult housing problems. I wouldn’t have got involved if I didn’t believe I could make a difference. That is why I offer as much of my time to my local residents as possible. Treating everyone fairly and representing their interests irrespective of their race or creed is vital. Becoming a councillor is one of the most rewarding and satisfying things I have ever done.
I decided to join the Green Party for human rights and social justice reasons. I love engaging with people, listening to them and voicing their concerns. I was 24 when I was first elected. It was the first seat that the Greens had ever taken of f the Conservatives in the city, our first seat in Hove, and my seat stripped the Tories of their overall majority on the council. So far, my achievements include successfully halting plans to scrap a bike lane and getting crossings installed at two dangerous junctions. The more you put into being a councillor, the more you get out of it.
I was approached by the local Conservative Group and asked if I would like to become a councillor. The call came at a good moment for me, as my son was due to start school and I had been thinking about going back to work. However, I wanted to do something different from my previous career in the City; I wanted more flexible hours and the ability to contribute to the community. I really appreciated the Conservative Group’s upfront approach and was encouraged by the fact that the council was prepared to look ‘outside the box’ to find new talent. I had never seriously considered becoming a councillor until it was suggested to me. That said, my introduction to local government wasn’t easy: I had three very tough interviews, including one with 15 councillors from the local party. On top of this, I was thinking through the time commitment involved to make sure I could balance the job with meeting my family’s needs. I was absolutely thrilled to win. I do a lot of work with family and children’s services and enjoy the challenge of serving on our fostering and adoption panels. I love getting involved with local issues and helping residents with their problems.
In my experience it is crucial to speak to people who can tell you about the challenges and sacrifices you will make as well as the difference you can make. One of the most important factors is speaking to people who you trust and who are experienced. Standing for public office is a time-consuming process and, if you have a family, it can be a difficult thing to do. Knowing the realities of the role, positives and negatives, is a very useful preparation tool. That and knowing I had safe spaces where I could explore some of my frustrations helped enormously.
Independent councillors concentrate of representing their communities and seeking every opportunity to make them better. Not tied into party politics, we are free to consider the needs and aspirations of everyone we represent. I love being able to bring skills, experience and local understanding to help our communities thrive and help councils make decisions that really improve people’s lives. I enjoy working with others to bring resources into the area to create cohesive, active communities where people feel they have a high quality of life. This includes lively, low-cost activities for all ages, thriving small businesses, good public transport, local facilities and a well-kept environment.
I became a councillor because I wanted to make a difference in my local community. UKIP is a libertarian party that believes in low tax, small government and moving power as close to communities as possible. Being able to scrutinise and challenge the decisions that are being made is an honour and a real responsibility. However, what gives me the biggest ‘buzz’ is helping people with things that make a real difference to their lives. Often the smallest things make the biggest difference. Far too often people simply complain about what is wrong in their local area. Being a councillor gives you a chance to put things right.