The 4th in a series of 6 interviews with a candidate from each Party who has not served, previously, on the Council. The Derby Labour Party were contacted to be involved but chose not to respond.
Rob Cooper – UKIP – Mackworth
Marten Kats – Green Party – Darley
Alex Dann – Independent – Oakwood
Jonathan Smale – Conservative – Chaddesden
Chris Fernandez – Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) – Darley
Robert Mason – Liberal Democrat – Alvaston
What’s your background?
I was born 1987 in Chaddesden, then moved to Spondon to attend primary and secondary school. I attended South East Derbyshire College and then went to Trent University and did a degree in Computer Science. While I was at college I started working at a local social club in Spondon called the Spondon Village club ( previously Conservative Club) for just 1 day per week. Then as time went on, I worked longer hours. I graduated in 2011 and it was difficult to get a job, and the role came up as the manager of the Social Club. I quite enjoyed serving 1200 members and listening to the variety of issues that they had in the community. Over time it was a natural progression in to politics.
Why do you want to become a Councillor?
When I was working behind the bar, the local Councillors used to come into the club. They used to say – ‘if you’re that passionate about wanting to represent people why not join the Conservative group and be a bit more proactive and help represent the local people’. I thought about this for a while and then I stood in my first election in 2014 in Derwent, and then followed on with representing Chaddesden in 2015. I was 16 votes short of being voted in last year in Chaddesden and my personal opinion is that it’s a very winnable seat in 2016.
What qualities do you have to become a Councillor?
The biggest quality needed of a Councillor is being able to listen, and then taking the issues back to the local group or Council. Also it’s important to be able to listen to people from all political platforms as well. If I was to be elected then I would have to deal with questions from people who didn’t vote for me – I have to be fair, unbiased and listen to what people really need.
I am a hands-on person, and I believe that your true qualities will shine through after the first few years. I’m keeping myself open to all areas of the Council before, perhaps, I specialise.
Why did you decide to join the Tory party?
I do like the local group as a set of people, and I got to know the Councillors through the Village Club. I also liked the openness of the group at the time. I was quite flattered when they approached me to be a potential candidate, and that’s why I joined the Conservatives.
I describe myself as socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. I like to make sure that we spend our money wisely.
So are you pro-Austerity?
Yes, and No. On a local level there are many things I don’t agree with.
But the national policy imposes austerity across a range of issues not least of which, locally, is the reduction in the local government grants . Does your social liberal viewpoint support that principle?
Yes it does. The money that was going into local Councils was being taken for granted. Then they started spending on projects and services that probably weren’t needed, and the money should have been focussed elsewhere. I just want money to be spent sensibly as long as it provides a decent quality service. I don’t agree with austerity to the extent that is harms important services.
The problem with the Derby Conservative Party is that on the one hand the national Conservative Party is reducing money to the Council, and on the other hand you’re criticsing the Labour Party for cutting services. What happens in full Council is that Cllr Banwait has a go at Cllr Holmes for the actions of your party at national level….so you’re creating the problem for Derby?
This is where we need to prove to the voters of Derby that it can be done properly. I know where Cllr Banwait is coming from as he’s been attacking us, from a national point of view, for some time, but I just have to disagree with him. If you look at Nottingham City Council which is a Labour led Council, they’ve got it so right. They’ve had their grants cut but they’ve managed to get on with it. They’ve even put their heads together with the Conservative- Liberal team and come up with a plan which is for the betterment of the City. There is no political agenda. I don’t want a political agenda – I just want what’s fair. That’s how we want to approach it – we want to end this political football game.
But when you’re out canvassing don’t you find that people do question you over what the Tory Government is doing and the problems its causing the City?
Sometimes I do, yes, but I like to counter that by saying that money has been spent on things we could use better elsewhere. Also we have reserves and I feel a bit uneasy about that when we could use it to keep front line services open. For example, Ruth Skelton who tried to pass an amendment to make a last ditch attempt to save Citizen’s Advice Bureau, – little things like that can be done.
But if they were studious and they’d read the Labour Party website which highlights that £116m was cut over the last 5 years, and a further £45m over the next 3 years – that’s a lot more than a few hundred thousand pound. How do you address that?
To be honest, I refer to your website. If they really want to know more then I suggest that they refer to Derby News. There have been cuts to one section of government grants but there has been an increase in other government grants. That’s how I try to portray it. It’s all about being fair and spending sensibly.
Although your route into politics was by being encouraged by Conservative Councillors, did you consider standing for any other parties?
Yes, I did do. Under Blair’s era I would probably have considered myself to be a Labourite at that stage but I was young at the time, and I believe you need to pick your own time to go into politics. It’s not an easy business. I felt that now the Conservative Party was more close to my views on many issues.
What are they key things which are important in your ward – what are your personal priorities?
In Chaddesden the biggest concern is match-day parking, also state of pavements and roads. It’s an issue that I want to tackle head-on. I’m a football fan myself, but I go by bus, so I don’t have that issue.
We’re also really concerned about the Derby Arena, and when there are events there, I’m starting to get complaints that they are parking in areas where it is not safe, on single yellow lines, or where it says “Match Day only”. The overall process of parking needs to be updated .We’re doing a mail shot soon asking the residents of the area, what would be best for them. We don’t want to jump in and do something that not everyone agrees with. Meadow Lane is probably the road with the biggest problem. We need to encourage fans to go the game by alternative means, but I know that much of the problem is from people visiting the area. I’d like to liaise with the football club as well, and form a partnership to resolve this.
Part of the reason why people use the road is that the price of car parking is expensive. Are there special arrangements we could make with local businesses to reduce fees? We need to develop a full strategy for this whole issue.
Other issues are the state of footpaths, roads, dog fouling which are most common. Also housing developments – Brook Farm has just been passed in Chaddesden which is very unfortunate. I helped and led the fight on that, and attended the public inquiry and spoke on behalf of Chaddesden, to have the plan rejected. It then went to a planning inspectorate and got pushed through – so that is now lost. I want to make sure that in future that they are proper sound developments and in locations which are beneficial. We just don’t want bolt-ons, and this is where our manifesto policy of expanding the City boundary will help, not directly for Chaddesden, but to ease the pressure in the City.
I also want to build Community spirit which happens in other wards. I want to make Chaddesden a better place, socially, and environmentally.
How will you make sure that people feel communicated to?
Being out and about is an important part of being a Councillor, and being seen in the area. Many people don’t know how the Council system works, and I see my role as helping people engage with the Council and to get their problems solved. They should be able to bridge that gap.
I’m going to continue my newsletter, I also use Facebook, my telephone number is published on emails, so people can talk to me, or text me, so I am trying to be contactable in whatever way suits the individual. For me communication is number 1. My personal favourite is writing to people with a letter in the post, I’m quite old-fashioned in that way.
I am passionate about recycling and the environment and especially about the policy regarding the additional tip.
If I get elected then I will reduce my working hrs by 50% so I can make sure that I have sufficient time to work as a Councillor. Also I will not be claiming any expenses.
Jonathan chose to publish his most recent tax return / P60.
Categories: Derby City Council