Were you brought up in the area, and do you live in the area now?
I’m afraid to say that I am actually Halesowen born and bred rather than Stourbridge, although I did go to school at Haybridge just down the road and I currently live in Hayley Green, which is a 5 minute drive away.
Outside of politics, what are your main interests and hobbies?
I do love football and I manage to find the time to support the Albion. I also like music (90s Britpop) and watching films. As a family, we enjoy going on holidays in our caravan and like nothing more than getting out and about exploring National Trusts and other family attractions.
What is your key local priority?
With my background as a teacher and a parent, I think it is safe to say that my priorities and areas of interest are Education and doing the best we can for young people and their families. I appreciate that none of these areas should be seen in isolation when trying to solve some of the inequalities that exist within our borough. We need libraries, parks and museums as much as we need schools and hospitals. All of these are part of the solution to raise well-being and reduce inequalities in the borough.
Which issues do you hear most on the doorstep?
The big issues that I hear about on the doorstep are those of car parking and congestion.
Do you think Labour’s message is resonating with the general public?
I think there are enough people in the area who share our concerns for the future provision of vital public services. I think people are concerned about how we are going to care for the elderly and provide decent social housing at a time of cuts to local government budgets.
What have been the best and worst moments of the campaign so far?
This week I was out collecting litter with a wonderful group of volunteers from Tidy Stourbridge (www.tidystourbridge.wordpress.com), other Labour candidates and Labour supporters. I strongly believe that any Councillor or Prospective Councillor needs to be prepared to join in and support the actions of groups like Tidy Stourbridge. To play my small part and get involved in this kind of community action was a real privilege.
There have been no bad moments so far!
How would you go about protecting local libraries?
When answering a question like this the standard political response is to perhaps over exaggerate how often you use the local library, but it is true that we use our local library nearly every Saturday. My boys are perhaps more interested in the free craft making sessions than reading books or researching for school projects right now but they already love the library. We use the same library that I used as a boy.
I think libraries are vital community resources. Perhaps if they are to continue to be at heart of our communities, libraries need to continue to diversify and adapt to changing demands, serving as community hubs for health and education.
What would be the best ways to improve education locally?
All the talk from both sides of the argument at the moment is about Academies and Ownership. Frankly, I think we need to be talking about safety, enjoyment, happiness, inspiration and skills while promoting a lifelong education rather than drowning in data, targets and paperwork And that is coming from someone who has been a teacher for 10 years…
In challenging times, what do you think have been the key successes of Dudley’s Labour council?
Dudley and the Black Country is still recovering following the decline of the manufacturing industry, and we now have a central government imposing cuts and divisive policies that serve only to further compound these difficulties. In my opinion, we should be thankful to Dudley’s Labour Councillors for the work they have done so far in trying to protect the most vulnerable in our society and continuing to try and limit the impact of the cuts on our local services. All this while keeping Council Tax low.
Everyone in the Dudley Labour Group understands that there is work to be done in tackling the challenges facing Children’s Services. To have someone with my experience in this area as an elected representative on the council would support my Labour colleagues in making the improvements we all know are needed.
What are your feelings about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party so far?
Personally, I think Jeremy Corbyn has been like a breath of fresh air for the party. I think he has really focused the party on why we are Labour, and on who the Labour party should be fighting to protect. I do think that it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask if Jeremy has all the personal qualities needed to be a future Prime minister and whether enough voters can be persuaded to vote Labour in the next General election. However, as far as I am concerned, if you don’t agree with the majority of his principals then you are perhaps in the wrong party.
What would be your strategic advice to the Labour leadership between now and 2020?
We need to stay strong and stick with where we are going. We need to educate the electorate and raise awareness of the fundamental differences between ourselves and the Tories.
We need to show the public that there is an alternative way to run an economy and that we are not the same as the others.
When in power, we need to re-build trust – trust in the individuals that we will hopefully elect, but also trust in the party’s competence to govern effectively.
However, we need to be united as a party of opposition before any of this can happen. I am concerned about the different sub-groups and divisions within the party. We need to spend less time fighting among ourselves and focus squarely on the actions of this current government.
Do you think there was there anything more that could have been done to save Dudley museum?
I really don’t know if there was more that could be done. I went to Dudley Museum for the first time just a couple of weeks ago. What I would say is this: as parents we are fortunate that we can afford to pay the entrance fees of places like the Black Country Living Museum. What Dudley Museum offered the families of Dudley is the opportunity to access history, knowledge and culture no matter what your family budget or circumstance. We must surely consider the many residents and families who are struggling financially when we decide to close or reduce the capacity of our free museums, libraries or other local facilities.
— Jonathan Dean is a teacher and NASUWT representative. He is a first-time candidate for the Council, standing in the Pedmore & Stourbridge East ward.