Monday 1 May 2017

On the campaign trail with Labour's Carol Angharad ......... Duffield & Belper South

In every election there is something that stands out, something that captures the mood. In the 2010 general election it was the myth of Labour debt and hug a husky; in 2015 it was the false spectre of the SNP pulling Labour's strings; then in the 2016 local elections it was the inability of the Tory Amber Valley Borough Council to respond to voters wishes to oppose housing developments on green fields.

So what has struck me as being the motif of 2017 and the fight for control of Derbyshire County Council ............... it was the Labour candidate for Duffield and Belper South, Carol Angharad, speaking passionately last week about the anger she feels at the damage to local services caused by cut after cut of central government funding of local councils (since 2010 a reduction of 37%). Following her barnstorming performance at the hustings in Duffield I really wanted to interview Carol for the BelperStuff blog, to find out where she gets her energy and what drives her. Carol is retired after a lifetime of caring for others, her children, grandchildren ........ and also the many children and adults she helped during her career as a social worker.

In the past I have canvassed with Carol, going from door to door speaking with voters of all persuasions and what I learnt very quickly was that it was best if I did not try to match her walking speed. Carol's energy and drive put me to shame. She set herself a mammoth task of calling on as many of the homes in the electoral division as possible and I know that she is still out there, visiting yet more of the 4,927 homes in the district. She has been at it for months. At the hustings Carol mentioned some of the stories of those she had visited and stressed that 15% of the households in the division were occupied by single pensioners ............ that's 740 pensioners living on their own. She spoke of those in need of care and it is a salutary lesson to learn that in the Duffield & South Belper division there are 1,384 folk receiving unpaid care. No wonder Carol is angry at government cuts. She reminded me that some parts of the country care services have been halved following swinging Tory cuts. No wonder Carol is angry.

I wanted to know more about what motivates Carol so I asked her for an interview. She shared with me not only her thoughts but also some of the photographs she has taken during her long days of campaigning ............ so what follows is less of me and more of her:

Carol in her own words (and photographs)

Photo with a camellia was taken on Hillrise & looks down the valley to the East mill & across to the Chevin.

Looking over the roofs of Belper I was thinking that Belper is a great Town & I am very settled here. It's a Town where people do things for themselves, the annual Arts Festival, the Town's Sports Day, the Green Festival and numerous music events all organised & run by Belper folk. You could be busy everyday of the week and it could take you an hour to progress down King Street as you stop & talk to the people you know. But I also thought about those who are isolated from this beehive of activity. Isolated because of age, infirmity, lack of money or transport or having no one to go with, despite the friendliness of Belper there are those not included in its life. The County Council is aware of the isolation of the elderly.

Milford Mill
In other places Mills like this would have been developed for housing or art space but the empty Mills of Belper & Milford rot with neglect. The Borough Council seems incapable of seeing the potential of these heritage buildings. The Borough Council needs the muscle and expertise of the County Council in forcing the owners of the Mills to restore and develop them or sell them to someone who will.

The closed pub on the Parks Estate
There would have been a time when a Councillor could have championed this building and identified money that could have turned it into a community centre for the Estate; years of central government cuts have put an end to such ideas. A group are working to rebuild their Youth facility, the Blue Box, which was burnt down and a group of young mums are now running the Children's Centre. Again Government cuts meant the County Council could not financially support the Centre but two local councillors, John Owen & Stuart Bradford gave money from their community funds to help and John Owen arranged for Council Officers to negotiate a peppercorn rent.

Ecclesbourne School

Ecclesbourne School will lose £568,744 per year by 2019 which is equivalent to employing 15 teachers. That's a cut of £524 per pupil. Down the road, the Meadows Primary School will lose £85,909 per year, a cut per pupil of £294 and risks the loss of 2 teachers .......... the William Gilbert loses £70,774 which is again £294 per pupil and a further 2 teachers' jobs at risk.

In Milford and Belper it is the same story with similar cuts which add up to a cut of over £38 million of central government funding to schools in Derbyshire. In this  electoral division the cuts to our 10 schools amount to £1.69 million per year. What are these Tories doing to our young people? We have to find ways of securing their future and invest properly in education and meaningful apprenticeships.


Carol with her granddaughter
Amongst the photographs that Carol sent me was this charming snap of granny and granddaughter ....... framed. I just had to share it with you. 

If you are a Duffield or Belper South, Milford, Quarndon voter you should by now have received Carol's leaflet through your letterbox (the header of which is shown above). Carol writes about her use of buses and their importance to our area; pledges to oppose fracking; mentions the new care home and library in Belper; her views on planning and housing ........ the NHS and so much more. I know how easy it is to bin political bumf after just a casual glance but I do urge you to spend a couple of minutes more over Carol's leaflet. Yes Carol is angry but she has great compassion for those who are disadvantaged and would be a powerful voice in the county council chamber.

Voting for Carol would give you a cracking good county councillor

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