Sounds a bit dodgy but it isn’t really. This morning I attended a political speed-dating event at Dormer’s Wells High School. Thirteen councillors turned up to meet two different forms, one of fifteen year-olds, some doing some early GCSEs and one of sixteen year-olds doing their GCSEs next summer. It was a great morning. The councillors all sat in a circle and were interviewed by two students for five minutes before we all moved around one place. At the end the younger group were asked to choose one councillor in a ballot. The voting was just a bit of fun but it was interesting to see who did well – only the top three were announced to spare the blushes of the losers like me.
Tory Colm Costello came in 3rd. He is a charming and unfailingly kind Irishman so quite understandable. Labour’s Shahbaz Ahmed came 2nd. Shahbaz always stands out as Mr Nice Guy. The winner was another Tory Justin Anderson, looking dashing here in his Harrington jacket. Justin always has a smile, a handshake and a joke for all fellow councillors of whatever party.
I was very interested in the students’ questions. The top issues were:
- crime – meaning their own personal safety really
- things for young people to do – youth clubs, skate park, etc
- cleanliness of Southall
- young people’s benefits – meaning concerns about higher university fees, loss of EMA and travel concessions
There was a policeman standing at the gate of the school at lunchtime when we left and certainly there have been problems with mobile phone robberies at the school in the past. I was sorry to hear crime rising to the top of the students’ concerns but maybe it is not surprising as crime is usually at the top of adult concerns too. If you look at the Ealing residents’ survey cleanliness is also ranked second by young people as an issue. Although young people are often assumed to be the cause of much litter they are also get fed up with it like everyone else.
Forgive me if I make a party political point. Eight out of the 13 councillors were Tories representing leafy Ealing wards. That is a third of the Tory councillors. Cllr Rose turned up for the LibDems, he is one quarter of the LibDem group. Four Labour bods turned up, two from Greenford, one from Perivale and one from Acton. This is only 10% of the Labour group. No Southall councillors turned up to hear local kids in a Southall school complaining about personal safety and public cleanliness in their wards. Truly rubbish. Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that Southall would be safer and cleaner if it had some better councillors?