I’m late in blogging about this, but a couple of weeks ago I went and stayed in Dalston, Carlisle for a week. It is where my parents live and near to where I grew up. However I have never been involved in the political side up there and I really wanted to meet up with Labour members in the city and broaden my “Labour Friends Network”. To that end, I contacted Lee Sherriff, the PPC for Carlisle and that led to having a great time with Carlisle CLP.
I contacted Lee through twitter and arranged to meet in the Costa in town. As soon as she turned up, we got on really well and we talked a lot about our individual CLPs and for the first time I realised just how similar Carlisle and Gloucester are, both in history and social make up. Carlisle have done really well in getting a Labour council and I was keen to learn how they got there. After an hour or so, we decided there was a lot we can do between the CLPs.
Lee also let slip that they were having a fundraiser that weekend and asked if I wanted to go along. It was a Gala dinner and art auction, so I thought, why not! The Saturday came and I got a lift to the venue and met with over a 100 members. I perused the artwork, some local, some political, some really very good and some of it I still don’t quite understand, but then I’m not wired that way.
It was a really great event. We had a number of speeches, including Margaret Curran MP, as well as the Art Auction itself. I was made to feel really welcome and though I was a bit disappointed not to come away with any art, I was really enthused by what I saw.
I think Carlisle are in great shape and that with the right support, Lee Sherriff will make a great MP for Carlisle. I look forward to going back north and meeting up again. It will be great to go and do some campaigning and help other Labour friends.
In the new way of working on the County Council, a new initiative is the idea of Shadow Cabinet members. So each of the Cabinet Portfolio holders has an opposite number in both Labour and Lib Dem groups. I am now the Shadow for Fire Planning and Infrastructure which is held by Cllr Will Windsor-Clive. This is a new proposition for the Council, so not only will we be carrying out the shadow role, but we will also be exploring and shaping what that responsibility involves on a day-to-day level.
In the initial phases the Shadow role will mean I get briefings from the Cabinet member about decisions, issues and policies specific to the portfolio. It will be then up to me to determine how to respond and speak against, for or offer alternatives (or a combination). But I think this role will evolve and we have to be quite agile in how we think about what we are doing.
The Fire Planning and Infrastructure portfolio consists of:
- Fire and Rescue authority
- Minerals and waste planning authority and support services (e.g. Archaeology)
- Planning authority liaison – duty to co-operate
- Strategic transport authority Trading Standards
- LTP – local transport plan
- LTB – local transport body
- Civil contingencies
- Community safety, incl. s17, PCC liaison
- Climate change and carbon reduction
So just a few things to get my head around, and a lot of briefings to attend. But it also means I get to cover a lot of the things that are close to my heart, including the Fire Service, Waste Disposal, Transport and community safety which have all been key issues at the heart of our community concerns for a while.
So I look forward to this role developing and being able to make the most of the representation it affords. If you have thoughts and suggestions on it, why not let me know.
There is one Conservative MP who a lot of Home Educators owe a great deal of gratitude and that is Graham Stewart MP. He has championed the Home Ed cause for a long time and kept the subject a topic within Westminster while the need arises. HE has done this again with the new Children and Families Bill that is going through at the moment. What is more worrying is the stance of the Stroud MP who seems to be flying in the face of the good work done by his predecessor (and hopefully successor) David Drew.
The applicable text from Hansard:
Mr Graham Stuart: While the Minister is on the subject of conflict between local authorities and parents, may I press him, as many of my amendments do, on home-educating parents, who all too often have been subject to misinformation and abuse of power by local authorities? Will he give serious consideration to including a provision stating that parents who home educate are not to have their children’s SEN support removed and that local authorities, despite their duty to find children with SEN, do not have their powers to demand access to children strengthened? We should reinforce the primacy of parents in deciding what should happen to their children and ensure that local authorities are the servants of families, not their master
Mr Timpson: I have a strong memory of spending a late night in the House a few years ago when my hon. Friend managed to get more than 100 of us to present petitions on behalf of many of those parents who decided to home educate their children. I know that he, as chair of the all-party group on home education, has been a great advocate on their behalf. Clearly we want to ensure that every child with SEN, however they are educated, during the period of compulsory age and beyond, from nought to 25, gets the support they require to meet their full potential. That should be no different in the circumstances he describes. I will be able to respond in more detail when we debate his amendments, and I am happy to continue that conversation with him outside the Chamber.
Mr Timpson: I am straying slightly outside my portfolio, but where it impinges on special educational needs clearly we want to ensure that those children receive the support they require. There were attempts in the last Parliament to bring about some form of registration, which was eventually put out to grass. I think we have the balance right at this stage, but of course it is something that my ministerial colleagues who are responsible for these matters will no doubt keep under review.
In essence Mr Stewart has ensured that LAs don’t automatically assume that every Home Ed child needs to be SEN assessed, but that those children who do need SEN support, will do so.
I am concerned about Mr Carmichaels intervention thought, it seems he doesn’t appreciate just how many HE families he has within his constituency or how it works. David Drew did a lot of exceptional work in breaking down the barriers between HE families and “Authority” – with uninformed outbursts like this, Mr Carmichael could go and undo all that good work.
On a side note – That “long night” that Mr Timpson refers to was the largest petition submitted to Parliament in history regarding HE registration. I was very proud to have organised the Gloucester section of that submission and it marked the point at which I entered Politics in late 2009.
Now all we need to see is all that written into the legislation properly and not just open for crass interpretation by the DfE!
A month ago, yes only a month, I was elected as the member for Grange and Kingsway, and what a month it has been. What with training, finding my feet, meeting people, getting out and about in the community, finding out more about my responsibilities, shuffling busy calendars, meeting officers, meeting residents, and keeping the day job going, it has been pretty full on. But I’m hoping this is just the start, once things start to settle down, then we can go further and some semblance of routing will set in. But I thought that a monthly roundup of highlights may be useful for people (not least of all, my wife, so she knows what I’m doing).
The day after the election was a trip into Shire Hall to get paperwork, photos, IT passes, and meeting with the Chief Exec to sign the Oath of Office. I think we all must have looked a bit glazed and rabbit in the headlights because the staff were brilliant in making sure we had all we needed. Also I was really pleased to see the flexibility in the IT provision. If I needed a Laptop or Phone, then they were made available, but if I already had my own IT equipment then the systems are flexible enough to let me use my own equipment without impinging on security or privacy with remote log ins and the use of Apps for smart phones and tablets. For me this was brilliant, as I don’t need a second phone or another laptop, so everyone was happy. With my iPad and the app from Mod.Gov to provide electronic agendas and minutes I should be able to go completely “E”. However, while I love my gadgets etc, I still prefer to make my meeting noted on paper (I use mind-mapping) so I still can’t claim to be completely paper efficient yet.
The Saturday after the election, was the first Labour Group Meeting where we sat down and took stock of where we were. With a number of new Councillors on board it was quickly suggested that we would benefit hugely from keeping the same leadership within the group, as the most important thing was to look at the Council itself and how that will work. We established that we were going to be an effective opposition rather than form any Rainbow Coalition. This was for a number of reasons, but mainly because we feel that we have a responsibility to those who elected us and rather than posture around for a “power play”, we wold be more effective in providing robust opposition.
After that meeting, there was the plunge into training, both for the general “how to be a councillor” to knowing who to go to for what. I quickly got the impression that the was Shire Hall is mapped out is a bit of a test as many of the corridors look the same, and a distinct lack of signposts. But every time I look even vaguely lost, someone has been keen to point me in the right direction, so no real problems so far (like walking into the wrong meeting or office).
The First Full Council was certainly interesting, what with seeing how it all worked, and the viewpoint from being actually in the chamber, rather than just observing it. But it is just a workplace and after voting in the Chair and Vice Chair, it was down to business of the Leader and Chairs of committee and committee members. Mark Hawthorne was re-elected unopposed, in reality while not having a majority, he was still the leader of the largest group. An interesting perspective was the fact that the Lib Dems changed their leader on the Friday before and this became apparent in the Committee chairs, as they had obviously been talking in amongst themselves (or to the press) but not to the other group leaders. My more detailed review of this meeting is here.
One of my wider issues, and one that got me into politics int he first place is Home education and being on the Council of the Authority who has remit of looking after home educators is a bit of a plus. I had a chat with the Head of the Home Ed Team and the Director of Education. Gloucestershire has always had a good reputation with us and I’m keen to see that progress and for them to make the most of whatever monies are still around. I think having a councillor who is also from an HE family will also provide useful insights.
Some of the fallout of how the minority administration will work is the idea of Portfolio Shadows, so each cabinet member has briefings with Shadow representatives of Labour and Lib Dems. I am the shadow for Fire, Planning and Infrastructure. The Cabinet Member is Will Windsor-Clive and the remit is quite wide-ranging. Whilst still finding my way a bit, I have already met with Fire Chief, Jon Hall and have the list of dates of Shadow Briefs. It think this role will grow as it is a bit new to us all, but in the main, my role will be to be our spokesperson on these issues.
I attended Quedgeley Annual Parish Assembly, both in my role as a Parish Councillor, but also in my role as County Councillor. While it would have been great if more people turned up, it was an opportunity to get out my new “display board” which I am putting together for any event which I attend in this capacity. It’s not a bad start, but a lot of it needs redone do be bigger and more attractive. There is more on the APA here. I have also attended the AGM of the 3 Bridges Partnership which covers Grange, as well as Podsmead and Tuffley. It was interesting to see the comparative attendance between that, the Quedgeley APA and the Kingsway Public Meetings. I hope we share some ideas about how to make these sorts of events more appealing to the general public.
There have been a number of issues that I have been looking at, including the proposed bus route through Copeland Park and Kingsway. Whilst in theory the bus routes are much-needed, the big problem is the impact on residents parking. This is a known problem for Kingsway residents but for Copeland Park there is a number of people who bought properties on the understanding they could park on the road, so this new development is going to be a pain for them. I think there is going to be a lot of work on this one. There is also the deep issue of the Potholes on both Bodiam Avenue and opposite the Pike and Musket. Having discussed this with Highways, it is looking likely that Bodiam Avenue is going to be resurfaced this year, but still awaiting final confirmation. I have now had a lot of information on potholes and have much more of an appreciation about why we are we are where we are. It is also my belief that this new ward structure should serve us well if we get the rumored £10k or £20k highways spending money. As Kingsway is full of new roads, then the majority of that money will go into the Grange Infrastructure, though some of it may be directed into speeding deterrents! There is also some issues of ASB that involve County Council items, namely Bus Stops which have already been looked into by the Police and the Grange City Councillor, Chris Chatterton. WE are now looking to see if there are more effective long-term solutions that can be reached! Watch this space.
Kingsway Big Lunch was a great event, having seen it go from strength to strength in the past few years, it was brill to see the new committee took it one step further and managed to get some amazing weather for it. I was a bit nervous when I saw stocks being built, and it turns out I was quite right to be as a call came over the PA for ‘Councillor Barry Kirby’. I was then put into the stocks and sponges with ice-cold water were duly thrown, some with more force than others! I thought the election had been tough.
I am also now a member of the Appeals Committee and Panel. This mainly looks at the appeals made my parents when their application for help with transport funding to get their children to school has been unsuccessful. We had our first meeting and training, now I’m waiting to sit on my first appeal panel itself, so we will see how that goes.
One of my drivers for this year is improving and increasing resident feedback within my division. To that end I have started online surgeries using Skype (Every Thursday, 1930h) and all a resident needs is a Skype account and to add cllrbkirby to be able to call and discuss their ideas and issues. I am also making use of social media, by encouraging the use of the hashtag on twitter of #ourGrangeandKingsway. It will take time to grow, but I think using these in addition to the more traditional routes is a good idea. For the more traditional routes, I want to hold monthly surgeries in both the Kingsway and Grange sides. These are still in planning phases, but the Kingsway one will be a drop in surgery at Coco coffee shop on the last Wednesday of the month and Grange will probably be in Skillzone, but that is still TBC so watch this space.
So it has been a busy month and that’s not including a lot of other things I have attended such as the City Council “City Plan” consultations in both Quedgeley (for Kingsway) and Grange as well as meeting residents to discuss issues and generally walking and driving round the division to see how things are going. There is still a long way to go though, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how things develop and working out new and better ways to engage with residents.
It’s no secret that I have been very critical of previous Quedgeley Parish public meetings, when a Parish is supposed to represent around 16,000 people and barely 20 people feel motivated to turn up, and not even all the councillors attend is not a good thing. But I was very enthused last night, with a different format, interesting speakers and a more community based approach, I think we are on the right path to rediscover the need to make much more efforts in engaging with the community.
The previous formats have involved people coming to the community centre and listening to rather dry review of the work the parish has done, and then from each group. This year had guest speakers in the form of Martin Surl, the Police and Crime Commissioner, a presentation by the Claire Haslam from the City Council about the City Plan as well as the review of the Parish plan by the new chair Chris Pearce. Chris outlined what the Parish does, what committees from the council and then moved onto the Parish Plan, giving an overview of what each section is about, what progress we have made, and what still needs to be done.
Martin gave a brief introduction to his role and some of the things he has learned in the time he has been in post so far as well as some of the challenges facing us i the next couple of years. He was quite clear that he expects further cuts in the coming years, and the next two years could be particularly difficult. He then took questions from the audience, ranging from the future of the proposed police cells at Waterwells, as well as future police resources and the police station at Quedgeley.
Claire went though a presentation that encouraged all residents to get involved in telling them what we use and how we want to see our community develop. There was discussion around items like Clearwater Drive, as well as the number of houses that are to be developed which are over and above the current numbers that have already received planning permission or outline planning.
Community groups, organisations and representatives were also invited to have a table so there was more “mingling” and talking to people on a 1 to 1 basis as well as the opportunity to give a 2 minute presentation of what they do and interact with residents. As it was my first “outing” as a county councillor, I put a presentation board together and tucked myself into the corner.
We had other local representatives including Mark Hawthorne (leader of County Council) as well as City Councillors Andy Lewis and Deb Llewellen (Fred Wood had sent his apologies due to a conflict with his new Cabinet Role which was entirely reasonable), so nearly full representation or apologies. We were also really pleased to have Chris Chatterton, the Mayor of Gloucester, coming along, with his new sparky chains of office. This is the second time in 3 years that we have had the Mayor of Gloucester reside in Quedgeley (Andy Lewis was the first in 2011).
Overall, while still a low turnout on the public front, but I think the forma is now more encouraging and enticing. What we need to work on now is the publicity and how to encourage people to attend. Maybe there is something to be said about removing the more formal part completely, and having it as a “Quedgeley Roadshow” on a Saturday morning where people can man stands of interest, including businesses as well as groups and make it a more interesting and interactive event.
In any case, I’m really pleased that we have turned a bit of a corner, we just need to keep making strides in engaging our residents, but its a great start. Many thanks and much kudos to the Parish Staff who pulled it all together and sorted everything out.
Wednesday was the Annual Council Meeting for Gloucestershire County Council, it is the meeting where the leadership, cabinet and committees are sorted out. It was also my first council meeting, so it was a new environment to take in and new procedures to learn. All in all it was an interesting event in itself, but also the result of the meeting that set the way ahead for the next 4 years.
The day started for us with a group meeting and then making our way to the council chamber. Having signed the roll, then signed in, declared any interests, picked up the name plate and then found a seat, we settled down for the opening events.
We had an opening prayer, and then elected the chair and vice chair of the Council. We then elected a leader, where Mark Hawthorne was elected unopposed. This was no real surprise as the chances of a rainbow coalition was not realistic, and any other organisation was scuppered by the Lib Dems deciding to go to the press before actually talking to anyone, which didn’t exactly set the right environment, however it seems the Lib Dem Group realised the issue and changed their leader.
The committees were then elected and I am now on Audit and Governance Scrutiny, and Appeals as well as full council itself. There was a bit of a commotion over the Committee chairs, and I believe this was generally a result of when the discussions were taking place about the future of the council, the Lib Dems were busy reorganising their house, so they were not impressed that they didn;t feature heavily in the Chairs. This lead to crys of a Con/Lab Coalition, which wasn’t the case.
Then there were two Motions submitted(Both by the Libs). Aparrently it is not the done thing to put motions at the Annual meeting (another thing learned) but that said, both of the motions did have a time element to them that I think made them ok. The first one was on the incinerator, which did forma great protest, but we then submitted an amendment to also give it some teeth, and resulted in an all party group to look at the way forward.
The second one was on the badger cull and in essence to write to the Government and state that we did not support the cull. There was some interesting comments from all sides, and in particular the comments made against the vaccine programme. There was so much about how they don;t work etc, but i couldn’t help but think that it seems to work in Humans well enough. We don’t resort to culling children to keep hTB under control. A silly comparison some might say, but I don’t think so. Also, the argument was made that trapping and vaccinating badgers required a lot of effort, but by the same token, so would the effort involved in ensuring a safe shot from a rifle. It got exciting when a named vote was requested, so we got to play with that process too.
I think we set out the way we want to operate over the next four years well. We will work with people to get the council moving forward, we will support where appropriate but also oppose what we don’t think is right. The job to do the next 4 years is rather stark, £120m of cuts to find over 4 years and we have to work with people in this council to do this int he right way. Therefore just opposing everything is not going to serve our residents, but from a Labour perspective we have to do all we can to protect those essential services, and ensure those things that really matter are delivered.
On reflection, having the No overall control will provide a hard 4 years for councillors, but it will be good for the residents because all the decisions can’t just get rammed through by a single party.
To listen to some Labour Party members, Progress is like an antichrist organisation. Others see it as the voice of the future of the party, so having talked to a wide range of people both inside and outside of the Progress membership, read a lot of their literature I decided that, like many organisations, there is some of it that I agree with, some of it challenges the way I think and some of it I disagree with. So I joined up to find out a bit more. Turns out it was good timing as yesterday was Progress Conference and as part of signing up, I got a free ticket to attend. With Ben Mosley picking me up at 6.30am (yes, in the morning) we picked up some Labour Friends along the way and headed to London. When we got there, amid an audience of MP’s, PPCs, media columnists and a wide range of Party Members we had a day of robust discussion about if and how Labour can win a majority in 2015 and what we need to do to make it happen.
As it was a day conference, there was only so much time available, so there were 5 main sessions. An into discussion, 2 breakout sessions, the Leaders address and a Question time session at the end. The introduction session really set the tone of the day, in that we had done a lot of work, but there was still a long way to go. In the opening comments, Phil Collins (The Times) highlighted that the Lib Dems are more resilient that anyone expected, and that was largely down to their grass-roots organisation. Andrew Harrop believed that there are enough people out there who we can convince to come to, or come back to Labour, for us to win a healthy majority in 2015, but it requires us to be multifaceted in our approach to campaigning, doorstep politics, while important, is only a part of it. He also said it should not be about “swinging” people left or right, but the government that gets elected will be the one that seems most credible, ans so there lies the challenge. Harriet Harman rebutted the argument that Labour is too complacent. She had visited many CLPs in the run up to the elections and she didn’t meet a single CLP or candidate who said “its in the bag”. She also said that she “doesn’t believe in Paper Candidates” and that is certainly something that chimes with me, having been labelled a paper candidate in 2010, I still worked hard, and continued to do so until it paid off. A “Paper Candidate” should be an aspiring candidate who can use the opportunity to prove their skills and enthusiasm both to the electorate and the party. But in allowing the label in the first place we do a huge disservice to the electorate, the local party and the candidate themselves.
After this was the first breakout session, and I went to the debate on Public Service Reform. The overall question is do we need it? there was lots of good debate at this session, but I still got the feeling that we as a Party need to do a lot of work in this area to really appreciate what the Public Service estate should look like. The point made by Steve Reed MP was absolutely key, that it must be done with greater community engagement and to give a better sense of ownership to the community in what goes on. But this can not be the engagement that the Tories recently engaged in Gloucester, where a survey of just 400 residents was used as glowing approval of the budget strategy but a much deeper debate and consultation and then ongoing engagement in the delivery. In my mind was that this is what Councillors and party activists should be doing as part of the Doorstep work. Outside of elections time, it is not just about who you going to vote for and getting the numbers, but proper engagement.
The comment was also made that Changing the Structure of an Organisation doesn’t lead to a rise in standards. I think this is true, the gut reaction of anyone taking over an organisation is to put their stamp on it by reorganising it, this often leads to chaos, particularly for the end users of the organisation.
Ed Miliband was up just after lunch and he gave, what I thought, was a good speech. It didn’t pander to the Progress Audience, and wasn’t apologetic. It was an open review about where we are and where he sees us going as a party. The full speech is here on Labour List but here are a few snippets that I think are worth highlighting.
That’s why I say our biggest opponent at the next election is not the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or UKIP, but the idea that nobody can make a difference.
This is true, and when you look at the turnout at the last few elections, it is very bad. We need to work harder to show to people that politics does matter and that we can make a difference.
Power in Britain is far too centralised. Local people don’t feel they have a say in the decisions that shape their lives. That is why, as part of our Policy Review, we are absolutely committed to devolving power down. Because the only way we can restore faith in politics is from the ground up.
That is also true, though we need to be clear that this is about listening and being proactive and supporting, not expecting people to do everything for themselves, otherwise what is the point.
He held a Q&A afterwards, answering some tough but pertinent questions on things like economic policy (which was a common thread running through the day), immigration policy, how Labour works with Small Businesses, what Labour can do about increasing diversity and many more. What was very clear was that he is now much more confident in that arena of fielding difficult questions and responding with answers of substance. I did not like everything he had to say (it would all be a bit boring if I did) but the vast majority was good and he seems to be doing something that few other leaders are doing, and that is listening. The journey with his “pallet” seems to be paying off.
The last breakout session had a few good subjects and I chose, Blue to Red, can Labour win without Tory Switchers. There was a lot of debate, but quite simply the answer was “yes, but why would you want to”. But also the key is not to go chasing them directly, but if we offer substance, confidence, and most importantly hope, then they would come over. As the comment was made earlier in the day it is about developing the party of credibility.
Finally was a Progress Question Time, chaired by Simon Fanshawe and included Stephen Twigg MP, Oona King, David Aaronovitch and Peter Mandelson. This was an interesting debate, with some strong comments on the likes of planning for a coalition (Peter suggests we plan to win first, Stephen and Oona says plan to win, but have a plan B – I’m with Peter at this stage). The panel was asked about if the”One Nation” platform was sufficiently robust. Peter said not yet, which given the results of the County Council elections (in particular low turnout), he is right, it still has a way to go, but then its still quite a young concept. I did chuckle at the BBC coverage calling his comments an “attack” on the concept, I don’t think that was the case, I think it was a constructive criticism, if he had said yes, could we have agreed with him? I strongly believe in the One Nation idea,it is exactly right, but we have to do more on the front line to communicate it and enact it.
The best question for me was “What does Unite and Progress have in Common? Stephen Twigg was spot on when he said that they both want Labour to win in 2015. For me, this is the point, the Labour Party is a broad Church, and I think that is one of our strengths, that we are a movement that appeals under a common purpose. I am also a proud member of the GMB, but I don’t necessarily agree with everything they have to say either. For me is the power of the movement as a whole is having the ability to listen to the wide range of opinions and then to form your own. But you have to do both elements, IE Listen and then form your own opinion – at the moment we have too many people who neglect the first step.
Another interesting fact about yesterdays conference, the delegates were probably the most diverse I have seen at any conference of this nature, both with the Male/Female mix as well as the cultural and ethnic background, it really was a representation of what we need to be aiming for in the future.
So, overall, I really enjoyed the day – it was good to be with a crowd of people who were willing to debate the difficult topics, especially the ones we tend to avoid because we feel we shouldn’t even mention them, but as Ed Miliband said, there should be no “off-limits” areas of debate. I think this type of approach sets us up well for our grass-roots campaigning, because lets face it, if we are not willing to debate difficult issues internally as a party, how on earth can we be credible on the doorstep.
After a nail-biting count on Thursday night, I had the great honour of being elected as the County Council Member for Grange and Kingsway. It was a fantastic evening, which followed 2 very hard days of campaigning, which rounded off 5 years of community activism. However, this is obviously the start of the journey, as I now have a steep learning curve to become an effective local councillor, and get on with the job of representing the residents who have put their faith in me.
Wednesday was all about walking and leaflets the rather large ward of Grange and Kingsway, and talking to as many people as possible, and then Thursday was a constant round of door knocking to encourage people to go and vote. By 9pm, there were blisters, sunburn, hunger, thirst, but a real sense that we could not have done any more, and so it was now out of our hands.
A quick shower, change of clothes, a much-needed hug from Amanda and then off to the count at Plock court. As this was my third count that I have attended as a candidate, there was something reassuring about the reasonable familiar territory. My parents had come down to support me, as well as Matt, our friend from Bristol. Once inside the Gloucester Labour “Family” were there, providing each other moral support.
Verification began, where they made sure the number of votes cast matched the number of votes received and while this was going on, Matt and Chris were sampling the data to see what my results were looking like, and really it all got summed up in a word – close! Not only was it close between myself and Dave Norman, the Conservative candidate, but UKIP had a substantial proportion of the vote as well.
Then the count began in earnest, with the votes being bundles into 25′s and put in the respective colour box and it was difficult to see just how different the boxes were. It looked very close indeed. Then they were batched into bundles of 100′s and we were able to get a real look at the result. It because clear that I had over 700 votes, Dave had over 600 votes and UKIP had over 500 votes. It looked at that point that I had won. We were then all called into a huddle with the candidates and agents to read out the final result and see if we wanted a recount. Dave conceded the result with a handshake and then we made our way to the stage for the announcement.
This is what happened
Being the first announcement in Gloucester, it really set the scene for what was to come, with Steve McHale retaining Matson and Coney Hill, Jasminder Gill keeping Barton and Tredworth and Tracy Millard taking Tuffley. That meant 2 more seats for Labour, which has all sorts of positive implications. But also because of the surge of UKIP, the Tories fell from a controlling position, and the next few days will see lots of phone calls about what sort of arrangements can be come to in order to form an administration.
I could not have achieved this without a lot of help from friends, family, Labour comrades and most importantly the residents of Grange and Kingsway and I would like to say thank you for your help and trust. However I would like to say a very personal thank you to Chris Chatterton for his great support and advice, to Matt Ashley for giving up his day and keeping me grounded, and most importantly to Amanda, who has supported me so much.
But now, the real work begins, I have been in to get my paperwork completed, had a chat with the Chief Exec, and then this morning was our first Labour Group meeting. There is a lot to do, the issues we picked up on the campaign trail need delved into, as well as working out my own priorities about what I want to achieve first
To see the full breakdown of results see Here : http://glostext.gloucestershire.gov.uk/mgElectionAreaResults.aspx?XXR=0&ID=78&RPID=32867983
Saturday afternoon saw brilliant sunshine and a huge array of High Viz vests taking to the Streets of Kingsway to do the first Kingsway Litter Pick. Organised by the Kingsway Residents Association, and supported by over 70 residents, I think the day was a huge success and really worked to help clean up our streets, but also bring the community together in a common purpose.
When my kids asked what we were going to be doing that afternoon (I was daddy daycare as mummy took a well-earned break by going to watch the rugby), their faces fell a bit as I told them we were going litterpicking. ”That doesn;t sound fun” was the under the breath comment! But when we got there and they saw that lots of other kids were there and they got to play with litter pickers and stuff, they grudging admitted it was great to be involved. We met up with a host of other residents, were organised into groups and we set off round Kingsway to get rid of the rubbish.
What was also nice is that may residents used the opportunity to grill me on why I was standing for election and what I could do for them, and what was pleasantly surprising,what could they do for me. Many were disappointed not to see any of the other candidates there to talk to, and I have to admit I was too. It would have been nice to meet the other candidates, as I havn’t seen them either. While i have been passed his literature,I have never actually seen Dave Norman(C) anywhere. Many people who spoke to me was also disappointed not to see Richard Graham MP as promised, though when we got back,we were told that he had eventually turned up, did some photos and then have to go and catch a train. However the Photos that I have seen do show that he did go and do some litter picking, so all credit to him for coming and getting his hands dirty, even just for a brief stint. See the video link below for his thoughts:
After 2 hours, and with rather full bags, we returned as a group and many people commenting on what good fun it had been and that it was a really social event as well as improving our community. My kids decided that they had earned an ice cream and I thought they were right, so after handing back the equipment and cleaning hands, we trooped off and they enjoyed the fruits (or ice creams) of their labours. We did have interesting discussions about where the litter came from, and while there are a lot of people who drop the litter, we also need to look at the other factors, and the biggest one is that litter is always worse on a Friday and Saturday and that is down to the kerbside recycling boxes and how the contents of those boxes (paper, card etc) is blown around by the wind etc on collection day. This is something that really needs addressed.
I had a chat to Cllr Chris Chatterton about what had been achieved the following day, and as we were walking round areas of Grange, we thought about how we could do a similar thing to clear the waterway that runs adjacent to Homleigh Road as residents were telling us just how awful that gets and is a source of regular complaint. So I feel that donning some wellies and gloves could be in order there.
I think the value in the event was really in so many people seeing residents getting involved and there were so many people who had passed us and said thank you. Yes, we can not completely eliminate people dropping litter, but hopefully more people will think about it. As I said to Joe Logan, the chair of the Residents Association, the next one of these will have more people attending and the message will go further. I think the Residents Association deserve huge commendation for organising such a great community based event and I look forward to the next one.