October 2019: Councillor Q and A
Kingswood Voice meets your local ward councillors.
In the final part of our Q and A series, Kingswood Voice meets the local ward councillors voted in at the last council elections. This month we put questions to Kingswood ward councillors Andrea Reid and April Begley, who represent the Labour Party on South Gloucestershire Council.
Do you have any specific roles within the council/within the community? Joint shadow lead for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment; Scrutiny Commission and Health Scrutiny Commission; Climate Change Standing Committee; ACE Ambassador (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and a I'm a South Glos Mental Health Champion. I’ve partnered with Southern Brooks to reinstate Kingswood’s job club and I volunteer there every Thursday. I’m also a member of Connecting Kingswood, which delivers projects that benefit residents of Kingswood.
What would you like to achieve in your councillor role? I want to help and empower people. That probably sounds twee...but I’m all too aware that helping people can be messy and gritty. I simply believe the end result is worth it.
What do you consider the biggest issue facing our country today? Divisive rhetoric from the media and political figures as well as austerity. Instead of holding our government to account, we have been kept busy fighting and blaming anyone different to us whilst our communities have suffered. So many people I meet are battle worn, resigned or hopeless and totally disillusioned with anything political. A country that used to be known for ‘rooting for the underdog’ is being actively encouraged to kick it instead. We need to redirect our scrutiny back toward those in power.
And on a South Gloucestershire level? Residents in South Gloucestershire need to feel their council represents, and is invested in, ALL residents, not just ONE group of voters. Most of the feedback I get from my local residents, is that they don’t feel that at all. I’m very aware that I work for all the people in Kingswood ward, not just those who voted for me, and I want to do right by them and be transparent and accountable. It’s their right, and particularly in today’s political landscape, they need that reassurance.
What about in your own ward? The main complaints we get about Kingswood are her appearance, the empty shops in the High Street, the hugely unpopular one-way system, poor road surfaces, parking issues and the amount of litter. She desperately needs reviving. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes back from local residents with regard to how they think the Love Our High Street funding should be spent and seeing the long-awaited improvements actually happen.
What has been your proudest moment? The most predictable answer would be being elected, but honestly, I was more shocked and humbled than proud. I feel privileged. I’m chuffed that I’ve already had opportunities to prove that I’m willing to help - I’ll listen, understand, and I’m actually interested, but what a sad state of affairs that people are surprised or taken aback by simply being given the service they’re entitled to.
How do you relax? I’m a member of a local drama group. It’s fun and total escapism with the added benefit of making it really hard to take myself too seriously, given some of the parts I’ve had to play or the costumes I’ve had to wear.
Where is your favourite place? Eating your lunch in Kingswood Park whilst listening to the kids play in the Park School is a highly under-rated past time. Further afield...I love Brean. I love the sea air, quiet and scenery.
What’s the best thing about your ward? Without a doubt, the people! Gotta love a Kingswooder!
What's the worst thing? Its decline over the years and the hardship suffered by some of our residents.
Do you have any specific roles within the council/within the community? Yes, Labour group whip; Member of Task and Finish Group School SATS; Labour lead member for Health (Scrutiny); trustee Whitfield Tabernacle; trustee New Cheltenham Community Centre; governor New Horizons Learning Centre; governor Christ Church Primary School, member Connecting Kingswood; committee member Over Fifty’s Forum.
What would you like to achieve in your councillor role? A better environment and facilities for residents.
What do you consider the biggest issue facing our country today? Climate change.
And on a South Gloucestershire level? Educational facilities.
What about in your own ward? Parking.
What has been your proudest moment? Being elected for Kingswood ward.
How do you relax? Reading, theatre, cinema/film, gardening.
Where is your favourite place? Holy Trinity Church in the HighStreet when the primroses are out.
What’s the best thing about your ward? Kingswood Park.
What's the worst thing? Rubbish in the streets.