“The only way you’re ever going to get anywhere for a party like ourselves is if you work all year round, and don’t just turn up at the elections,” writes local democracy reporter David Beecham.
David Blackburn knows a thing or two about keeping hold of a council seat. He became Leeds’s first Green Party councillor when he was elected to Wortley Ward (now Farnley & Wortley) in 1998, long before the party was the national force it is today.
And while he and his wife Ann have become two of the council’s longer-serving members, he claims you can’t rest on your laurels when it comes to election time. He added:
“Me wife and myself work extremely hard and we have done for a long time. We started working at this when people didn’t know what a Green was!
“But it is our job is to do something for the people.”
Despite taking the fourth largest number of votes at last year’s all-out council elections, the Greens group saw its number of seats on the authority reduce to just two.
So what can the Greens do?
“Whatever our electorate want us to do,” comes Coun Blackburn’s brisk response. “A lot of it is the mundane day-to-day things. [Voters] have the common sense to understand that major things require an action of council and maybe sometimes we can’t deliver on that because there aren’t enough of us.
“But on a ward level you can make that difference, and I think that is what we have done. We have listened to people, and like to use the phrase ‘active locally, thinking globally’.”
He bemoaned the sometimes febrile nature of Leeds City Council meetings, claiming his group has no intention of playing “Punch and Judy politics” in the chamber.
“I might have a bit of a laugh sometimes with people, and pleasantly take the mickey,” he added. “But the fact is you don’t make things better by shouting at people, you make things better by persuasion.”
And while the “B” word is off the agenda when it comes to local elections, Coun Blackburn believes the government’s handling of Britain’s exit from the EU goes to show how important local authorities are. He said:
“Local government is a damn site more efficient than national government!
“You see Parliament’s inability to come together and deliver something that gets a broad appeal with Brexit. It has showed Parliament in its worst light – like little boys and girls arguing about things.”
So what does he want to see at a local level?
“I think if we listened a little bit more,” he said. “And not just to the noisy people, we can do better as a city. A little bit less ideology, and a little bit more thinking and listening – we can do a lot better.
“One thing I have gone on and on about for the past few years is bulky waste collections. I go into meetings and get told that tipping hasn’t gone up. It has gone up!
“Who’s causing the tipping? Obviously the people who are doing the tipping, but if you don’t charge for bulky waste you are giving an opportunity to get it disposed of properly. Doing that is cheaper than going round picking up all the stuff that has been tipped.”
He remains optimistic about the chances this time around for his party, which is running in 31 of the city’s 33 council wards.
In the run up to the election, the West Leeds Dispatch has featured interviews with all four main party leaders on Leeds City Council.
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