When canvassing on the doorstep over the last seven years I have heard the words ‘I don’t understand politics’ – I’m not interested in politics’ or ‘I never vote as it never makes a difference.’
I have to say, at times it can be disheartening. Yet political decisions do affect our lives. Whether it is through how many times your road is swept – to whether your lights are switched off at midnight, whether your roads are re-surfaced. Or maybe whether your Sure Start Centre is kept open. How many hours is your Library open. Will your local A&E be kept open 24hrs ? Will your local school be able to provide enough teachers ?
The list is quite frankly massive. Yet I still hear the words spoken to me ‘I never vote as it never makes a difference’.
But it does make a difference. Your vote does count. I became involved in politics through campaigning on road safety in my ward in Birchwood. It is an issue that is close to my heart, because I want our roads to be safer, I would like to see more provision made for children, so that they can feel safe crossing roads.
In the time that I have been a City Councillor, and also a County Councillor I have been able to make a difference. Firstly through casework, helping residents with various issues, from housing to anti-social behaviour to social care. Then I decided that there needed to be investment in my ward, to help the environment. First step was to put large bins, on a green. Then get lights fixed. Next step was to have a clean up day, and also litter picks. Then most recently getting fences fixed and re-painted on the local Council estate. Having a cleaner environment makes a big difference to an area. And I do hope that my residents have seen a difference in the ward. To add to this, as a County Councillor I got roads re-surfaced that had not been done for many, many years. And also one garage area that had not been re-surfaced for thirty years and fences around it fixed.
Areas had been neglected and I wanted to make a difference. So yes, your vote does make a difference.
As Councillors, we also work in committees. We scrutinise. For four years on the County Council, I was vice-chair on Adult Scrutiny ( Adult Social Care ) and on Health Scrutiny. Part of what we do, is ask questions of the officers and organisations such as the NHS about the work that they are doing, their future plans. We read long documents, we look at areas that are of concern and also where the Council or NHS is doing well. So yes, your vote does make a difference.
On the City Council, part of my work is over seeing a Portfolio called social inclusion and Community Cohesion – it’s a wide brief and incorporates Anti-Poverty strategy, where we work with partners across the City of Lincoln to try to tackle poverty issues within the City. We have lead campaigns against loan sharks, we have formulated at Lincoln Living Wage campaign, we have brought organisations together at workshops and Conferences to create ideas to try to tackle poverty in the City. So yes, your vote does make a difference.
On road safety, I did make achievements. Working with road safety partnership in Lincolnshire to tackle speeding down one of our roads in Birchwood that is dangerous- this took months of negotiations but I wouldn’t give up.
Yes, your vote does make a difference.
One of my proudest achievements over the last few years as a local Councillor is having an idea to create a Youth Theatre for the young people in Birchwood. I wanted to give young people in Birchwood access to creative arts. Also to involve BGU ( Teaching Uni ) within the community. We have wonderful Universities in our City – and I wanted children in areas, such as Birchwood, which is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, to not only have access to creative arts, but to have a connection to our Universities. So the idea became reality and with the help of the head of Drama at BGU, we got students to teach the young people of Birchwood creative arts skills.
This is direct action within communities. Not only helping young people within deprived communities access creative arts but also helping Universities engage with communities.
In my time as a Councillor – I have campaigned on issues, to save our Libraries, to re-open our waste recycling facilities and many other issues, I have spoken out for the people of Lincoln and Lincolnshire in the Council Chamber and in meetings.
So yes, your vote does make a difference.
In these challenging times, you can make a choice. You can choose to vote for a political party or ideology that believes in austerity and cutting back the state to the point where we have few public services functioning to how they should.
Or you can vote for positive action and investment. That’s why I believe in the Labour Party. For a century we have always fought against the odds, on the side of people.
And yes, your vote does make a difference.