When Jonathan Garston won re-election last month in Milton ward, nobody was more surprised than he was. Right up until the final moments, Jonathan was sure he had lost.
Equally, I don’t see that anyone can believe that his 51 vote majority is a result of his dynamic campaigning and magnetic personality, as much as the national swing of a general election. His surprising success, though, seems to have gone to Jonathan’s head.
I’m not sure which part of his thank you leaflet I like the most. The bit where he promises to “prevent Labour and the coalition from misrepresenting your interests“, despite the fact that he’s partial to misrepresenting the work of Labour Cllrs Julian Ware-Lane and Cheryl Nevin in solving local parking issues as his own. Or maybe the bit where he claims he “works tirelessly on your behalf“, despite the fact I’ve never known him knock on my door, or even seen him on my road…
But the best bit is the part where he calls on residents to “Help us get the ineffective Labour Councillors out of Milton!“
Milton doesn’t have any ineffective Labour councillors. Milton has two of the most hardworking and successful councillors in the borough, who have achieved more than the lone remaining Conservative in the ward. I would rather have councillors who listen, who work, who I see more than simply when they have an election on the horizon. If Jonathan Garston thinks Cllrs Ware-Lane and Nevin are ineffective, I hate to think how he must view himself.
Rather than throwing rocks at his ward colleagues, Jonathan could do with taking a leaf out of their book, rolling up his sleeves, and doing some work to earn the trust which the voters of this ward have placed in him.
Congratulations are due (Overdue -Ed) to one of my local councillors.
Cheryl Nevin, Labour councillor for Milton, has impressed me since I first met her, clipboard in hand, knocking on doors in her election campaign on an overcast and blustery autumn day. I know that I am not the only Milton resident with a favourable opinion of her; I have knocked on the doors of many, to be greeted with warm words and admiration for Cheryl.
Her latest achievement is a motion before the council, calling on the government to crack down on some of the £120 billion lost to tax avoidance. The motion is part of ActionAid’s “Towns Against Tax Dodging” campaigning, and has now received the backing of the cabinet — which, given the fact that it consists of
three parties two parties and a “group”.
So provided that no councillor objects and calls it in to full council, it will be adopted by Southend Borough Council.
There is a perception that a councillor or a council can do little ultimately to influence national policy. And maybe that’s right. But I’ve always maintained that the key role of a councillor is to be a voice for their residents. In this, Cheryl is fitting the brief and then some.
I fully expect that the Conservative-led government will pay no heed to Southend. But given that the council has been forced to deal with nearly £12 million of cuts, which when compared to other councils under different political control feels downright punitive, to do anything but speak out against the abhorrent failure to tackle endemic tax corporate tax avoidance would be a disservice to the town.
And let’s not forget that HMRC is still a major employer in the town. Investment in tax inspectors to track down the missing billions could benefit Southend twice over: in swelling the public purse and lessening the cuts inflicted on local government, and in potentially bringing a raft of new jobs to the town.
If you’re not a resident of Southend, then you can call on your council to support the Towns Against Tax Dodging campaign here, on ActionAid’s website.
On Saturday 6th December, I was not the only Labour candidate selected to fight the 2015 local elections. Gray Sergeant was selected by party members in Milton to fight Labour’s number one target seat, and complete the revolution started by Julian Ware-Lane in 2012.
As a new resident of Milton ward, I am delighted with the choice of Labour Party members. (For those who are curious, I moved into Milton the day after the selection, hence I’m not describing it as ‘my choice’.) Gray did excellent work this year in St Luke’s ward, and was unlucky to come second to an invisible, voiceless Independent
Party Group candidate.
He will, I am sure, do far better in Milton.
Jonathan Garston, as I have pointed out, is not a good councillor. He is near-enough invisible, something which has been thrown into stark contrast by the active, vibrant work of Julian Ware-Lane and Cheryl Nevin, the ward’s two Labour councillors.
Speaking of his selection and the challenges before him, Gray said,
“It’s an honour to be selected as Labour’s candidate for Milton. I was born in Southend and have grown up here. I want to make my hometown a better place to live and work and somewhere people want to visit. Milton is a vibrant part of the town but also an area with many inequalities which I hope to address. I will work hard to deal with the local issues residents raise with me on the doorstep.“
Gray will make an excellent councillor for Milton, I am sure of it and come May 7th he will have my vote. And if you want effective local representation for a better place to live and work, then you should give him yours.