Following the letters from the Tory and Liberal Democrat prospective candidates for the Bersted division in the forthcoming county council elections, I would like the chance to present my credentials as the prospective Labour Party candidate.
As has already been said, I would not presume to describe myself as the ‘best candidate for Bersted’; that is for local electors to decide.
However, I do believe if I was elected as the new county councillor, I will bring a breadth of experience, local knowledge and achievement plus commitment and energy to the position.
A little about myself.
I am a 64-year-old retired schoolteacher who has also successfully run five different businesses.
I am currently a town and district councillor for Pevensey Ward which I am very honoured to represent.
I have been mayor of Bognor Regis twice, in 1999 and 2001, and have been Labour’s local Parliamentary Candidate in 1992 and 1997 when I beat the Liberal Democrats into a good second place.
As mayor in 1999, I was instrumental in setting up Bognor’s highly successful Town Force which has now been running for more than 12 years, tidying up the town and working in Bersted and other areas.
I was chairman for seven years of the Bognor Regis Neighbourhood Watch which was both a stimulating and very positive experience, and I am currently chairman of Bognor CAN which does a brilliant job working and making a difference in the more deprived areas of Bognor Regis and Bersted.
As part of this role, I am with others, putting together a quality new Folk and Bognor Big Bite Food Festival which will take place in late September.
I’m also heavily involved with The Rocks (Bognor Regis Town FC) and run the popular Folk on the Coast at the football club.
As a past and current councillor, I’ve been involved in helping many local people to solve a myriad of issues, and as a volunteer Gateway Advisor with the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, I’ve got a pretty good idea of how tough life is for many local residents and is getting tougher.
One of the reasons for this is the ill-judged and often unfair tax and benefit changes which both the Tories and Liberal Democrats have recently brought in and, at the same time, private and public borrowing getting bigger.
If I am elected as Bersted’s new county councillor, I will do all I can to champion the idea of a living wage of at least £7.45 per hour, which would do more than anything to tackle working poverty.
At the same time we need to move towards a fairer benefits system which reflects what people have contributed and a fairer tax system which does not cut taxes for millionaires at the same time as penalising hard-working families.
The county council, working with others, should also look at becoming part of ‘Power to the People’, a successful scheme several councils are already running which provides cheaper gas and electricity to local residents.
When it comes to local housing, we’re getting to the point where the Bersted and Pevensey areas have had more than their fair share of new homes.
There is clearly a big need for more homes, especially affordable ones, but we should be looking at other areas such as Aldingbourne and even Ford to locate these.
Where new housing has been built in Bersted and elsewhere, I would like to persuade the county council to look at introducing play streets where youngsters can play safely.
Finally, I am a passionate supporter of safeguarding our Picturedrome cinema.
I recently tried to get Arun councillors to note rather than reject the nearly 11,000-signature petition, but sadly the Tory majority voted this down.
I am sceptical about the current regeneration proposals on the table for Bognor Regis and without proper car-parking and cast-iron safeguards regarding The Picturedrome’s future, I can see a tragic ‘white elephant’ being created on the seafront which will bring more problems than it solves.
I look forward to meeting and talking with as many local electors as possible over the next few weeks.
Prospective Labour county councillor candidate