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Tag: local elections

Interview with Portsmouth Green Party’s Fratton Candidate: Tim Sheerman-Chase

It’s that time of year again, dear reader. The local elections are less than a week away and all of us at Portsmouth Green Party have been fighting away to get you a Green councillor to represent you and hold the main parties to account.

With that in mind, I (Emma) sat down with the PGP’s Fratton ward candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase to find out why he’s running and what he would do to improve Portsmouth for its residents and the world at large.

Hey Tim, I was wondering if you could tell the readers of Shades of Green why you’re running for office?

I decided to get involved in politics and local campaigns after seeing worrying signs of environmental and social breakdown. With my background in science and engineering, I am also well aware that, without drastic change, climate breakdown is a huge problem. The good news is that pressure from campaigners can be effective and real improvements can be made.

I learned so much from authors like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein about how current politics isn’t working for most people, so I aim to be an independent voice in politics that is a change from business as usual.

That sounds like just what we need. Now, I know that PGP have been out in Fratton talking to people to find out the main problems they have in the area. Can you tell me what those are?

Based on our survey, the main concerns of residents’ are:

  • crime
  • antisocial behavior
  • fly tipping
  • street cleanliness

Residents also face the danger of illegal levels of air pollution, which causes a wide range of health problems. All of this is against a backdrop of devastating cuts to local services under the banner of austerity.

That’s just terrible. So, what would you do to address these problems?

Fratton Green Party Candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase talking with local police about issues affecting local residents.
Fratton Green Party Candidate Tim Sheerman-Chase talking with police about issues affecting local residents.

I talked to the local policing team and they heavily depend on information provided by the public. I would help coordinate residents’ concerns with the police and other council services. On cleanliness, we need to provide more convenient recycling and waste disposal options, rather than having to travel to Port Solent or pay steep fees for waste collection. I would work to coordinate council services to keep the streets clean.

On air quality, I have been campaigning for a number of years with the #LetPompeyBreathe group. I have been pressuring the council to make significant improvements, beginning with producing a realistic plan. Unfortunately, the council has been slow in producing results. Since we need to transition away from private car usage, we need good transport alternatives, including better bus services. We also need to investigate the feasibility of introducing a charging clean air zone as quickly as possible.

Why is the Green Party the party to address these issues?

Many people are disillusioned with mainstream politics because it only offers superficial change. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The Green Party is different because of its emphasis on long term planning, while valuing people and the environment. This has allowed it to be an earlier adopter of many beneficial policies that have since gone mainstream.

That’s a really good point. If I wasn’t already a member, I’d join. Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers and the people of Portsmouth?

I’ve been encouraged by canvassing feedback and the hard work of our campaign team. This means we have a good chance of getting a first Green councillor for Portsmouth. We can win and we can hold the mainstream parties to account.

Well, there you have it folks. If you care about Portsmouth, if you care about our planet, and if you’ve had it with politics as usual, get out there and vote Green on May 2. If you’d like to read more from Tim, Tamara did an interview with him about air pollution in Portsmouth, which is an important (and scary) read.

Local Government Demystified

Welcome to Part Two of a three-part series of Adulting Mondays where I (Tamara) attempt to demystify the upcoming May 3rd local election in Pompey. Today, I am exploring local council and councillors and what the flippin’ monkeys it is all about. So, prepare to be skooled, yo!

 Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin…

Welcome to Portsmouth…City Council

Portsmouth is a unitary authority which means Portsmouth City Council (PCC) is responsible for all local government services in Pompey. It basically does the jobs of-of a county council and a district council combined and is responsible for public services that affect our daily lives. Southampton is also another nearby example of a unitary authority.

Yes, Portsmouth is geographically in Hampshire but being a unitary authority is the reason you can’t use a Hampshire County Council library card in Pompey and vice versa. I’m looking at you Mr Rude Dude who aggressively shouted at a Central Library librarian because you couldn’t use your Hampshire library card to access the computers. Pssstt and boooo to you!

The different local services Portsmouth City Council deal with are numerous and include housing, recycling, waste collection and disposal, council tax billing and collection, environmental health, education, libraries and social services, to name but a few.

For example, do you have have a dodgy landlord? Rubbish not collected? Want more recycling facilities? Have a noisy neighbour? Tired of potholes on your route to work? Contact Portsmouth City Council and your three local ward councillors.

Here Be Wards (and Councillors)

‘What be wards?’, I hear you cry. Ok, lemme bruk bruk bruk it down for you:

The geographical area PCC cover is divided into two parliamentary constituencies: Portsmouth North (currently Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt) and Portsmouth South (currently Labour MP Stephen Morgan).

So, these two constituencies are each made up of seven electoral divisions known as wards. Nowt to do with hospitals! It is the role of local councillors to represent their ward and the interests of the people who live and work in that area.

To clarify – on a national government level, we vote for a local Members of Parliament (MP) who represent us and the constituency in Parliament. On a local government level, we vote for city councillors who represent us and our ward at the local council. It is this local level that I am focusing on in this series. (Shout out to all the League of Gentlemen fans who are now reading this in a creepy Tubbs voice.)

Anywho, in Pompey, we have 14 wards with three councillors representing each ward, with a total of 42 councillors (3 councillors in each of the 14 wards = 42. See – I can do smart!). Councillors can be independent or affiliated with a political party – totally up to them.

 

The Portsmouth North wards are Baffins, Copnor, Cosham, Drayton & Farlington, Hilsea, Nelson and Paulsgrove. The Portsmouth South wards are St Thomas, St Jude, Central Southsea, Eastney & Craneswater, Milton, Fratton and Charles Dickens.

 

The ward boundaries can seem pretty arbitrary, for example, I live in the Eastney and Craneswater ward but I live literally two steps from Milton market which is in the Milton ward. Therefore, I feel invested in both areas.

You can find out what ward you live in here and who your current councillors are here .

The four C’s… Council, Cabinet, Councillors and Candidates

Councillors are elected for a four-year term. The cycle of elections can seem a bit confusing but basically here in Portsmouth, a third of the councillors are elected every year over a four year cycle – with no elections in the fourth year.

At the moment PCC is a Conservative-run council as there are 20 Conservative councillors, 15 Liberal Democrat councillors, 2 Labour councillors, 2 UKIP councillors, 2 Independent councillors and one vacant seat. For the Conservatives to run this minority council, both the UKIP and Independent councillors lend them their votes. This effectively puts the Liberal Democrats in the Opposition.

The Full Council (all 42 councillors) elect the Leader of the Council (currently Conservative Donna Jones), and the Leader appoints the other members of the Cabinet – known as Executive councillors. Each cabinet member holds a separate portfolio or responsibility for a particular part of the council’s services, such as housing or education and is the spokesperson for that policy area or ‘portfolio’ they are responsible for. The Cabinet tends to be made up of the ruling political party – so for us in Portsmouth the Cabinet is currently made up of 9 Conservatives councillors. Scrutiny Committees are there to hold the Cabinet and Executive councillors to account and usually tend to be more politically-balanced and made up of non-executive backbench councillors.

Being a councillor is a pretty full-on commitment with tasks ranging from handling local constituents issues and concerns, dealing with casework and council business, developing council policy, working with council officers, scrutinising cabinet decisions and engaging with the community. Councillors are not paid a salary as such and many also have a regular day job, families and responsibilities outside of their role of councillor. They are paid a basic allowance of just over £10,000, travel and accommodation expenses and then extra for additional duties and special responsibilities such as being Leader of the Council, the Mayor or an Executive Cabinet member.

To find out who your local council candidates are for the upcoming election on May 3rd and to read their candidate statements: visit All About My Area. 

So, why not take five minutes to find out:

  • What ward you live in
  • Who your current local councillors are
  • Who your local councillor candidates are

And in considering who to vote for, why not contact your local councillor candidates to find out their opinions on issues that matter to you.  You can use this Portsmouth News  Letter of the Day ‘Ask candidates pertinent questions before you vote’ as inspiration.

Let us know in the Comments section if you have any questions about the local elections and council, and I will do my best!

Tune in next week for the final part of this series – How to Vote, yo!

Public Service Reminder – Register to Vote

As you may be aware, local elections in Portsmouth are coming up on May 3rd. This is the first in a three-part series of  Adulting Mondays where I (Tamara) pretend to be a grown-up and de-mystify local elections, starting with registering to vote.

So consider this your Public Service Reminder to register to vote!  To vote in the local elections in Portsmouth on 3 May, you need to register by midnight tomorrow Tuesday 17 April.

Don’t know how to register to vote? Too busy enjoying the sunshine (woop woop!) to Google it. Never fear, Tamara is here!

 

Tamara’s Guide to Registering to Vote

  • Register Online: With the registering deadline just over 24 hours away,  the easiest way to register to vote is to do it online: gov.uk/register-to-vote.
  • Personal Details: You will need to provide some personal information such as your name and address (obvs!), your nationality, your date of birth and your National Insurance number. Once you are registered to vote at your current address, you don’t need to do it again, unless you change address, name or nationality.
  • Congratulations, you have adulted on a Monday!

‘yeah, but….’

You say…I’m not from Portsmouth, Can I even vote?

Tamara says …To vote in a local government election you must:

be resident at an address in the area you wish to vote in
be registered to vote – well, duh!
be 18 or over on the day of the election (‘polling day’)
be a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen
not be legally excluded from voting

You say…I might be already registered to vote. Who knows?

Tamara says…If you are not sure if you are registered to vote at your current address, call the Portsmouth City Council Election Services on 023 9283 4074 and they can check for you.

You say…I’ve just moved house.

Tamara says…If you have recently moved, yes – you will need to re-register to vote at your new address. There is no magical updating system, a shame I know! But the registering system is pretty quick and easy, so don’t give me that crud excuse!

You say…I’m a uni student, where can I vote?

Tamara says…If you are a student, perhaps at the University of Portsmouth, did you know you can vote twice?!

Basically, if your home address is in a different local authority area to where you live in term time e.g. you are living in Pompey in the term time and your home address is in Southampton, you can vote in the local elections in both areas. This is my tip of the day, as I had no idea of this fact when I was at university. I always thought that was illegal. In local elections it’s fine! Who knew?! Not me!

 

‘But Tamara’, I hear you say, ‘it’s only the local elections so who cares? I don’t get local politics anyway. What do local authorities actually do? What do local councillors do? Are they the same as my MP? It’s all so confusing!! Ain’t nobody got time for that!’

Chillax, dear reader. Tune in next week when I attempt to break down the local council and upcoming local elections into tasty bite-sized chunks.

Prepare yourself for a series of me pretending to adult! Huaazh!