To kick-off our series of interviews with Stourbridge Labour candidates in the run-up to the local elections, we spoke with Councillor Gaye Partridge who is standing in her ward of Cradley and Wollescote.
Were you brought up in the area, and do you live in the area now?
I was born in the ward that I currently represent, and I feel that living locally is a vital part of the democratic process.
Outside of politics, what are your main interests and hobbies?
Family, friends, the dog, walking, making things, the allotment, travelling, story-telling and reading.
Why are you standing as a councillor?
I am standing for the council because I believe that we can, and should, improve on what we do. I believe that community is a key driver to success. Everyone deserves a fair go.
What are your key local priorities?
My key local priorities include building capable communities that are engaged, empowered, respected, communicated with and better informed, and well served by the council. Housing is an important part of this – promoting quality, secure tenancies and affordable housing helps to build a platform for living a good life.
Great communities also produce great culture. This includes parks, recreational activities, libraries, and so on. Human beings in strong communities are at their best – co-operative, sharing, considerate, creative and generous.
Health is vitally important. The NHS is brilliant and something to be proud of. It is great value for money and the best health service in the world. The NHS is a fundamental and civilising aspect of being British.
I am dedicated to building life-long, enabling education which creates confidence and teaches reasonableness and tolerance. The technology for real change in education is already here.
Transport, sustainability and the environment are also important priorities. We need to put into practice what we already know. The way we think about these issues will help to bring about profound and enduring change. My own view is that this will happen during the course of the next 15 to 20 years – around how we grow food, how we consume, how we travel, the way we work, economic organisation and so on.
Which issues do you hear most on the doorstep?
The European Union and migration.
What have been the best and worst moments of the campaign so far?
The best moments are when people state that they have always supported Labour and are glad to have done so. The worst is the fact that so many people just don’t trust politicians and feel they are all the same.
How would you go about protecting local libraries?
Locally we have great libraries and more options than other areas. The level of cuts, demanded by the Government, means that we have to deliver services differently. We have just approved a proposal for library provision in the Borough which has crucial staff and trade union support. This will secure library services – though not at current levels. One of the main alternatives to local authority provision is through the use of the voluntary sector or non-profit organisations. This has implications – the danger is that it is a short-term solution and more about driving down costs than sustainable delivery in the long-term. Dudley’s proposal is to create a mutual – this is a good way forward and one we need to get behind.
In challenging times, what do you think have been the key successes of Dudley’s Labour council? What do you think the council could do better going forward?
Over the last four years, Labour in Dudley has delivered fundamental and wide ranging organisational and structural change. This has resulted in a new type of leadership – it means the council is ready for the challenges associated with reduced funding and the changes that accompany a Government with an agenda that is primarily about reduced state involvement. This is happening at a time of great economic change on a global scale. Senior managers have been appointed knowing the “challenges” they face.
This year, the Place Scrutiny Committee identified £7.5m in savings by eliminating unnecessary expenditure. This was done by listening to the contributions made by “none professionals” and applying common sense. It is an example that should be followed.
Dudley council needs to scrutinise better. This is in everyone’s interest and will protect and improve services. If we are to do this effectively then there will need to be a massive cultural change.
What are your feelings about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party so far?
Jeremy Corbyn’s election was a defining moment and it is to be welcomed. It demands that we reconsider the recent political past and understand the political present. The free market can’t work for the good of the whole. At best, it only works for the top 1% – and even that is debatable.
What would be your strategic advice to the Labour leadership between now and 2020?
I would say carry on – lead us. Corbyn has a strong mandate. He is principled and I trust he will continue to do his best.