Back in November 2021 there were headlines in the local papers and even on BBC News saying ‘Conservatives shocked as Labour win first seat on Rutland County Council in more than 20 years.’
Rutland has been well known as a safe-seat for the blues, a tory heartland. I am the first Labour Party councillor on the county council since 1999.
With my win, and the resignation of a Conservative councillor on the night of the election, it meant the Tories no longer had overall control of the council. Since then another Conservative Councillor has resigned to stand as an Independent Councillor. There has recently been yet another by-election, following the departure of another Conservative Councillor, who stood down during my election campaign. This saw the Green Candidate elected – it is clear that the people of Rutland are turning away from the Tories.
How does this happen in a Tory safe seat? Willy Bach, the former police and crime commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, touched on this when he tweeted his congratulations on my election. It clearly represented ‘the public’s distaste for Tory shenanigans.’ This was consistently and repeatedly highlighted during the campaign.
There was a lot of dissatisfaction with how decisions were being made, and with the lack of transparency from Rutland County Council.
I believe that the people of Rutland and Oakham wanted to send a very clear message to make sure they were heard. I also believe they saw a normal person, who shares the same struggles as they do, and that they wanted to see someone like them within the role.
As a new Councillor I did not expect to be put on any Scrutiny Committee at all, and if I was maybe I would be sat on Planning. I certainly did not expect the political proportionality to shift in such an extreme way for Rutland. . I get to sit on Adults & Heath and Growth Infrastructure and Resources. This has been good as one of my main priorities, especially during my campaign, was healthcare. I also sat on a Working Group for Primary Care.
Before my election campaign, I also campaigned against the closure of the public swimming pool, so sitting on GIR is a nice fit for me. Unfortunately, the pool was not saved due to the dire financial situation the local authority finds itself in after years of chronic tory underfunding.
Rutland households now face a huge council tax increase, alongside their soaring energy bills. The Council increased its tax by the maximum amount of 4.99 per cent. Only myself and two other members voted against this.
We can all agree on the bitter unfairness of government funding and RCC’s public consultation on the budget showed that local residents understood this. However, their repeated message of ‘it’s not our fault we have no money, and it is not fair’ lacks accountability.
I simply could not vote for something which tells people to pay more for less, at times when there is no more to give, and they are the ones who will suffer the most.
It has been made very clear that they want to see all Councillors working together to ensure that Rutland gets a fair deal. Now the challenge will be effectively lobbying to ensure we get proper funding and the proper infrastructure and healthcare to match.