My Election Profile

(Thanks to The Lichfield Blog for the idea for this post)

As Horsehay and Lightmoor voters prepare to go to the ballot box for the local elections on May 5 (or to the post box for those registered to vote by post) I’m taking a moment to talk a bit about myself for local voters who land at my blog by googling me.

Hopefully this will help people decide where to put your cross on election day.

It’s my wish that all the candidates make themselves as easy to find as I do.

Name: Ben Whitehouse
Party: Labour Party
Occupation: Management support officer, Birmingham City Council.
Ward: Horsehay & Lightmoor.

What has made you decide to stand for election?
I want to represent the local community I live within, I want the communities in Horsehay, Lightmoor and Lawley to have the representation they deserve. I’m involved in the local parish council, residents associations, church community and running a youth group – I see it as a natural progression to want to represent local residents as their elected councillor.

I wish that all my reasons for standing were positive. Having lived in Lightmoor for nearly two years I’ve only seen one of my councillors once – I saw Clive at a Dawley Hamlets Parish Council meeting and that was only for five minutes. My councillors Tracy and Clive don’t hold regular surgeries, don’t live locally, and don’t see the challenges and problems faced by local communities. They don’t comment on planning applications although they are automatic consultees. Speaking to residents on the doorstep I’ve found that precious few people have seen or met their councillors. Most couldn’t name them let alone pick them out from a lineup. Horsehay and Lightmoor and Lawley deserve better representation. I’d rather people had an opportunity to meet with their local councillor than continue to be ignored.

I want to make myself available to the local communities and be invited along to events, residents association meetings and celebrations. Being a local councillor is as much about celebrating the community as it is about being there to help fix things. The local communities seem to have two councillors who won’t work as advocates for their cause. The communities in Horsehay, Lightmoor and Lawley currently lack a voice, I hope that by working closely with the communities I’ll be able to express that voice.

What are the key local issues for you in your ward?

I think that the current absence of our councillors is a key local issue. Hopefully this election will address that problem decisively by returning myself and Michael Mackenzie as their local councillors.

Some of the key issues residents have raised with me on the doorstep are:

Parking: in the housing developments at Lawley and Lightmoor local residents have expressed frustration at the amount of parking provided. Streets are congested and the parking hasn’t been well thought out or consulted on with existing communities. I’d work with developers and local communities to ensure that adequate scrutiny is given to any plans.

Play space: Across the ward parents and community leaders have spoken to me (and Michael) about how they’ve been promised space for children to play and interact with one another and these spaces haven’t been developed. I’d like to see the play spaces that have been promised delivered and the spaces that currently exist kept to a good standard.

Roads: I know potholes are a bit of a cliche for councillors but the condition of the roads around the ward is so varied. I was shocked by the condition of some of the roads in Lightmoor (in the Burroughs Bank area), some of the deepest potholes I’ve seen in a long time. I reported these via FixMyStreet and they got fixed quickly (I reported all of the potholes I’ve seen in Horsehay, Lawley and Lightmoor and they got fixed but it seems a shame that the council don’t keep any data on how many potholes they fix or where).

I was surprised how little AV has come up in conversation with local residents. A Robin Hood Tax has been widely discussed with residents who are keen to see this pursued at a national level. I’ve supported a Robin Hood tax and would welcome my local MP supporting it too.

If you are elected how do you plan to keep your constituents informed of what you are doing to represent them?
You can find me in a variety of ways: I’m out and about around Horsehay, Lightmoor and Lawley quite regularly. You can contact me by email (lightmoorhorsehaylabour [at] gmail [dot] com) or phone 07722949304. You can find me on twitter: www.twitter.com/benjiw

If elected I’m planning on running local surgeries in Lawley, Horsehay and Lightmoor. If elected I’d also like to run smaller more focussed street surgeries. I’d distribute flyers on a Wednesday night to a street and then on the Saturday morning the residents who wanted me to stop by would put the flyer in their front window & I’d know to stop off. Residents who weren’t available on the Saturday morning could use a tear off return form to let me know about when I can visit them. It’s not rocket science, it’s not a revolutionary idea but it’s far more than the communities are getting from the current councillors.

I’d also like to look into a newsletter of some sort. I know people get a lot of junk mail through their letterbox and most of it ends up in the bin so I’d want to know how local residents want me to keep them updated if I’m elected. I know what I think could work but I’d love to know how residents want to be updated.

How do you feel you will be able to make a difference to your constituents?
As I said in an earlier blog post, I’ve been elected to the local parish council. If I’m elected to the borough I’m keen to work with the local parish councils to help deliver key services for local residents. It’s interesting to note that none of the other candidates in Horsehay and Lightmoor are standing for the parish councils.

I’ll attend council meetings, parish meetings and get along to residents association meetings and consultation meetings where I can. That sounds like the tip of a very large meetings iceberg but it’s important to keep connected with what’s happening within the boundaries of the ward.

I hope that my experience as a member of staff within a local authority brings a new perspective to Telford and Wrekin council. I work within the Transforming Education department at Birmingham City Council and have seen firsthand how investment in our local community schools can transform communities and raise aspirations for young people.

Anything else you would like to add?

All through the campaign I’ve been hoping to bump into Clive and Tracy whilst they were out campaigning but I’ve not seen them yet. I’m glad that the campaign has been fought in the local community in a way that is positive and local residents have a clear choice: Four more years of being sidelined or voting for a new set of councillors.

Vote Whitehouse & Mackenzie for Horsehay & Lightmoor.

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