Cornwall Council – Penzance East
I was elected to Cornwall Council for the Penzance Central ward in 2013 (winning the seat from the Lib-Dems) and re-elected in 2017 with an increased majority.
As a Councillor my top priorities have been tackling our housing crisis, the green agenda, anti-poverty measures and getting investment for Penzance, including a substantial amount of social housing.
I am heavily involved in public sector investment plans for Penzance and emphasise the need for them to focus on the needs of the people who live in the area and the town’s architectural heritage, rather than being primarily visitor orientated. The renovation of the Jubilee Pool, of which I am a director, has stuck to those principles.
I am proud to have initiated and led a Council Inquiry into Private Rented Sector Housing in Cornwall. The recommendations from the Inquiry Report include the introduction of a licensing system for landlords to improve the poor housing conditions experienced by many private tenants. Penzance is in many ways a socially divided and impoverished community and I give all the backing I can to community based anti-poverty groups. Sometimes this means defending those groups against attempts by other Councillors to undermine and marginalise them. At County Hall I recently obtained almost unanimous support for a call to extend eligibility for Free School Meals to all households in receipt of Universal Credit.
Focusing attention on the second home issue both locally and nationally is something I feel I have succeeded in doing. Shutting off tax loopholes for second homeowners and redirecting that money towards the provision of social housing, collecting an additional Council Tax (‘housing offset levy’) for the same purpose from those owners, the use of planning controls to check the hollowing out of Cornish communities through the loss of primary residences and the scandalous profiteering by second homeowners from Covid Business Grants, are now very much a part of political debate. I am not dogmatic about how genuinely affordable, good quality, secure homes are provided but current efforts must be ramped up. I want rented Council Homes available at well below the market rent.
I was a leading advocate of the Council adopting the Foundation Living Wage and the Ethical Care Charter which have improved the pay and employment conditions of many Cornish workers.
I have also been a prominent supporter of the ‘Stadium for Cornwall’ project. It frustrates me to hear something that in other parts of the country would be regarded as a necessary piece of infrastructure, described as a vanity project or a luxury we can’t afford.
I have been an active member of the Labour Party since the 8O’s and first stood as a Labour candidate in 1989. I was first elected as a Labour Councillor in 1995, representing my Essex home town of Brightlingsea on Tendring District Council.
I was the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for St Ives in 2015 and ran an effective and high-profile campaign.
I have a long track record as a campaigner for the NHS in Cornwall and West Cornwall Hospital in particular, including organising campaigns against the privatisation of hospital cleaning and catering services and community hospitals.
Prior to being elected I worked at the local job centre and before that was a local CAB volunteer, occupations that gave me considerable insight into the social and economic realities of Penzance.