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Alex Wilson: Why I became a Councillor

Awilson Alex is one of the youngest Councillors in the country, representing Blackheath Westcombe in Greenwich.

I’ve just put the phone down after talking to a senior council employee about the lack of window cleaners in Greenwich. I suppose that this would be a good introduction to the glamorous world of local politics. Be under no illusion, I had expected this though.

Firstly let me introduce myself, my name is Alex Wilson and at 23 and 3 months on polling day I am probably one of the younger Councillors out there. My seat is in Blackheath Westcombe ward which is part of Greenwich Council, I am also the Conservative Spokesman on Human Resources and Organisation Development for the Council, which I guess basically, means the Council’s Staff and their training. I was elected in May 2006 and so I was part of the many council seats that the Conservatives were able to win that night.

While Greenwich is still heavily Labour and the administration has been for over 35 years we now have a larger Conservative group than we have had since the 1980’s. This has helped in our abilities to call the Council to account over its actions.

I started to get involved with politics when a friend stood to be MP for Eltham in the 2005 Election, while sadly he did not get in he was able to significantly lower the Labour majority and get one of the larger Conservative swings in London. The new PPC David Gold is fighting hard to make Eltham Conservative again. After the 2005 Election I had caught the bug and remained involved, I put myself forward to be one of the candidates for the three ward seat which I now represent.

I have not always been a natural Conservative, and I remember that while at my local state school thinking in 1997 that the school would get better now that Labour were in, and while I would probably have left the school by the time that the improvements started to kick in my younger brother would be able to benefit from them. However I was wrong, after 9 years of Labour rule at the top, 6 years at a London level and 35 years at a local level the maths department is now currently a couple of sheds strapped together with duck tape.  Labour’s answer to this is that they are going to be building new schools, while seeming to forget that several years worth of children will have gone though the school in that time.

Greenwich sadly is one of the worst education providers in the country, so bad that many parents move out of the borough, or get their child into neighbouring borough’s schools to get them a better start. Because of this many of the parents which I spoke to during canvassing did not cite education as one of their main concerns as they had already accepted that they would have to send their children out of the borough or to independent schools. I guess it was these massive failings in their promises, the spin and also the realisation that equality though opportunity and not though targets was what made me want to stand as a Conservative and make things better in Greenwich.

Now that I am elected I can see first hand that there are many structural failings in how Greenwich operates as a council, these are highlighted by the many surveys that we carry out, crime and social disorder along with rubbish and graffiti are the top concerns of people, but yet the Labour administration does little. Finding out that the whole borough only has two window cleaners for all of the council residential properties could come as a surprise to some people but as I’m starting to find out the state of play in Greenwich I realise that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sadly I do not think that Greenwich is the only council were this is the accepted state.

The Conservatives also have a hard time getting listened to; the Council produces its own newspaper which another local newspaper hands out on its delivery run. The council paper, “Greenwich Time” is produced fortnightly and naturally gives a very positive view of Greenwich. Greenwich is able to do this as it has a very large communications department which costs nearly £1 million to the local council tax payer. I think that this is one of the reasons as to why Greenwich has remained in Labour control for so long; it is because they have successfully controlled the local press in Greenwich.

It was because of this and other factors that Greenwich Conservatives set up their own website and I have set up one at a ward level. These are both generating hits and more people are getting involved. I think that building a good web presence is vital for local politics, not only does it allow local people to get in contact easily but it is also a lot easier to put a story up on the website and let people read it at their leisure than print and then deliver a local newsletter. That said we haven’t stopped the local newsletters and we currently aim to get four delivered each year.

Finally I think that I should talk about the local election campaign, if there was one thing I learned it’s that Labour will set new lows if they are cornered. Without going into too much detail the third Conservative who stood in my ward failed to get elected because he was subjected to a personal slur against him. Sadly even though a retraction was produced by Labour the damage had been done.

Other than that I am enjoying being a Councillor, even if I do get a rainforest worth of paper delivered to my house twice a week!


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