Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Five reasons why I'm standing for election in Orton Waterville Ward

On Thursday 5th May 2016, I will stand for election in Orton Waterville ward in the Peterborough City Council Elections. When you go to your polling station to vote, you will see my name JULIE HOWELL on the ballot paper along with the names of other candidates. I am standing on behalf of the Green Party.

The Orton Waterville ward includes Orton Southgate, Orton Northgate (I live here), Orton Brimbles, Orton Wistow, Orton Waterville and parts of Orton Goldhay. As a resident of this ward, I enjoy the many benefits of having good neighbours and of being a good neighbour, of being part of a thriving community and helping to build this community.

Standing for election to the City Council is a massive step up from simply being a good neighbour. To be an effective City Councillor is to put the needs of the people who live in our community first and requires many 'people skills', including listening, understanding, speaking up and not giving up at the first hurdle!

Orton Waterville has never had a Green Party councillor. You may be wondering why I have decided to stand for election to the City Council and, in particular, why I have decided to stand on behalf of the Green Party.

Map of Orton Waterville ward
The area shaded orange represents Orton Waterville ward

1. For Peterborough

Orton Waterville is a lovely place to live. Outstanding natural beauty and a vibrant, diverse community that deserves the support of a committed City Council, with councillors who really listen and really engage (all year round, not just when there's an election coming up!).

We're very fortunate in Peterborough. We are less than an hour by train from London, yet we are not London. We don't have to pay London prices to live here and more of what we do earn we can re-invest in our local community by spending with local shops and businesses. While some of us do commute to London for our jobs, increasing numbers work right here in our city, with many now working from home. And why not? With our mix of the very best in public venues, business parks, and super-fast broadband set in or close to acre upon acre of unspoilt countryside this is a wonderful place to live.

Most days I walk around our neighbourhood and think to myself, "This is a beautiful place."

I want Orton Waterville to continue to be a beautiful, safe, community-oriented ward even as the region continues to develop and grow. We must protect our rich, natural environment, ensure what we take from nature we also put back, and continue to build strong communities so that no part of our area becomes just another 'dormitory town' for people who can't afford to live in London. I know my neighbours. I know where to turn if I need help in my community. I want everyone who lives in Orton Waterville to feel the same way.

I have a lot to say about why Orton Waterville needs - and deserves - to have its first Green City Councillor. Look out for future posts and do please share your thoughts with me and other readers.

(You'll find a fascinating history of Orton Waterville on the Orton Waterville Parish Council website.)

2. For older and disabled people

I'm attracted to the Green Party for many reasons. The greatest of these is the Party's position on the rights of older and disabled people. As I've already shared with you, I've had MS for more than a quarter of a century, and most of my adult life has been dedicated to serving the needs of disabled people. I am unwavering in my belief that disabled people, Deaf people, people with conditions that affect their mental health, people with learning disabilities, people with living with cognitive impairments, older people, people who are temporarily disabled due to illness or accident and people living with long term conditions have the fundamental right to participate in society as fully as everyone else.

Disability can be expensive. It can be lonely. It can be confusing. It can be isolating. But with the right social policies disability doesn't have to be any of these things.

Disabled and older people can be - and want to be - valuable, active and motivated members of our community.

I will be the first to say how access to the internet has changed disabled people's lives for the better. Suddenly, we are on a level field where we can participate in community conversations and can make our views heard. But life still happens in the 'real' world and that's why it's vital that disabled people are able to move about in our community safely and easily, to have 'real life' friends as well as friends online and to participate in the real life activities that everyone else enjoys.

The Green Party has a lot to say on the subject of disabled people's rights. If elected to the City Council, you can be sure that I will put the needs of Orton Waterville's older and disabled people at the heart of everything I do.

3. For democracy

I believe that people are best served when the people serving them represent a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, interests and political views. At present, all three Orton Waterville City Councillors represent the same political party. While I respect the choice that the people of Orton Waterville have made when voting in past elections I hope that you will agree with me that:

A City Council made up of Councillors from different political parties is likely to work harder and achieve more than a City Council where all Councillors represent the same political party.

Past elections have show that growing numbers of people in Orton Waterville are choosing to vote for the Green Party candidate, which is why I'm really pleased to put my name on the ballot paper as a representative of the Green Party. As I'm sure you agree, people who want to vote Green should be able to do so.

4. In memory

I have also decided to stand in this election for a deeply personal reason. In October of 2015, a dear friend and noble campaigner for democracy and citizen engagement suddenly passed away at the age of 47. His name was Dan Jellinek. I'd known Dan for around 15 years, having met during my time as a disability rights campaigner for RNIB. He is the author of 'People Power: a user's guide to democracy'.

When considering whether to stand for this election I asked myself, "What would Dan say?"

Without a doubt he would have given me his full support and encouragement. So it is also in loving memory of my dear friend Dan that I stand for election to Peterborough City Council.

5. Because I wish to 'be the change'...

A wise person (possibly Gandhi!) encouraged us to 'be the change you wish to see in the world'. But what do these words mean to the people of Orton Waterville?

Well, for this resident, they mean being a good neighbour.

In our super-fast lives we can spend so much of our time focusing our attention and energy on 'things' (mobile phones and tablets in particular!) that we forget the very basic but very important 'skill' of being a good neighbour.

If you have lived for a long time in one of the more established parts of Orton Waterville, then you may already know your neighbours very well. You may know, without a shadow of doubt, that you can turn to your neighbours in a time of need and be committed to being there for any neighbour who may need your help. However, not everyone knows their neighbours or feels that they live in a community. For some, family life leaves little time to get to know the people in their street. For others, uncertainty and simple shyness can be real barriers to making new friends. Some people commute to work and don't spend as much time in their homes in Orton Waterville as they would like to, but still want to feel that they 'belong' in our community.

I recently watched a BBC documentary about loneliness and was struck by the revelation that it isn't only older people who can experience the feeling of being alone. It is possible to be surrounded by people but feel no real connection to them, and this is a situation I would like to see change.

I am desperately keen that everyone in Orton Waterville feels that they belong to a 'neighbourhood' IF they want to.

There are many big things we can do to encourage the spirit of neighbourliness in Orton Waterville, from forming Neighbourhood Watch Schemes and Residents' Associations, to making an effort to introduce ourselves to neighbours we haven't spoken to before. But there are also tiny acts of neighbourliness that we can take part in every day, that don't cost money or time. For example, sometimes I set myself the challenge of saying hello to as many people as I can while taking my dog for a walk. While that sounds like a really small thing (and for me it is) when you say 'hello' to someone you may be the only other person they've spoken to that day. Just a simple smile and hello can really boost another person's mood (and if they don't return it, that's okay too!).

So there you have it...

Five of the reasons why I'm standing as a Green Party candidate for Orton Waterville in the Peterborough City Council elections on Thursday 5th May 2016. I am committed to serving every resident of Orton Waterville to the very best of my ability, listening to what you tell me is important and representing your needs. Do please get in touch with me and let me know what matters to you. I'm all ears.