Seven candidates are standing in a by-election in Hollingdean and Stanmer ward for a seat on Brighton and Hove City Council on Thursday 6 May.
The seat became vacant when Labour councillor Tracey Hill resigned to move to Derbyshire for family reasons.
The seven candidates are Emma Dawson-Bowling née Hogan (Conservative), Leila Erin-Jenkins (Labour), Nigel Furness (Independent), Alex Hargreaves (Liberal Democrat), Zoë John (Green), Des Jones (UKIP) and Rob Somerton-Jones (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition).
Each candidate was sent questions which were submitted by community groups and voters. Below are the responses from Labour candidate Leila Erin-Jenkins.
Why do you want to be a councillor for Hollingdean and Stanmer?
I’m a local mum and I want to see positive change in the area that will benefit those who live and work here.
I’m an experienced housing campaigner and have successfully defended cuts to children’s services, and I would like to be in a position to do more for my community.
I want to protect local schools from academisation, drive rogue landlords out of our city and be a strong voice for Hollingdean and Stanmer residents on the council.
What do you think you will bring to this role?
I’m a working-class mum, I grew up on a council estate in Brighton and I’ve lived here all my life.
People like me are woefully under-represented on the council.
I bring my campaigning knowledge, a new energy and a deep understanding of the difficulties facing our residents through my lived experience.
I have a strong moral compass and I’m not afraid to stand up for the rights of residents, protect our services and fight for our local area.
What understanding do you have of the struggles that children, young people and adults and their families face because they have additional needs or a disability?
This has been my life for the past 14 years. My eldest son is autistic and attended Downs View Hollingdean and my younger son has physical health issues.
For the past few years, I have been secretary of a support group for parent carers that meets monthly at nearby Moulsecoomb School alongside the charity Amaze.
I want to see parent carers represented on the council and the needs of children and adults with disabilities at the centre of council policy.
To what extent do you support the trend of building more homes on busy, polluted roads, exposing more people to it?
One in 10 cases of childhood asthma is linked to traffic pollution.
With half a million homes lying empty, I think our priority really needs to be requisitioning these for our residents, rather than building more homes on busy, polluted roads.
We can, of course, do our bit in reducing air pollution and it’s important we do. We can reduce car usage by incentivising the use of public transport by taking buses into council ownership and reducing fares.
How can you ensure that residents of Saunders Park don’t get forgotten as the area is very seldom mentioned or factored in to Hollingdean and Stanmer ward? There are no meeting spaces, no focus or strategy for the area and it is densely packed.
It is so important that residents from all areas of our ward are represented, which is why I would work with the community in setting up a residents’ association and get people from the Saunders Park area along to the north area community engagement panel.
I’m excited to join our current Labour councillor Theresa Fowler doing roving surgeries in the area, getting to know local residents and working towards an effective community strategy for the Saunders Park community.
How do you think a park and ride scheme, as suggested by the Climate Assembly, could be implemented in Brighton and Hove?
We desperately need a park and ride scheme in Brighton but, for this to work, we need to find a suitable site and we need to reduce the cost of bus travel.
At current prices, it would cost just under £10 for two adults to take the bus.
It is far cheaper for them to just drive in and park in a city centre car park.
If we don’t want cars in the city centre, then we must make buses more affordable.
What would you do to improve transport equity in our city for the 40 per cent of households who do not have access to a car?
I want to reduce the cost of public transport by taking the buses back into council ownership, like in Manchester, which would give the local authority the power to set fares, timetables and routes.
Forty per cent of bus company revenue is public money provided by the government and local authorities.
The public should have a say in how the buses are run. I want to see us take back control of our buses, and see better and cheaper travel for everyone.
Our playgrounds are dated, and some of the equipment is broken. How will you champion improving play areas for our children?
As a mum of young children, I spend a lot of time in parks.
I have noticed that parks in more deprived areas of the city tend to miss out.
When equipment breaks, it takes a long time for things to be repaired or replaced, and this is largely due to Conservative cuts.
There also isn’t enough disabled equipment in parks which must be addressed. I will make sure our voices are hear and our area prioritised for park funding.
There are no youth clubs in the area. What will you do to give teenagers something to do?
Youth services have borne the brunt of over 10 years of Conservative cuts. This is why we have reduced provision for youths in the city.
These cuts are short-sighted, costing us over five times more in policing, health services, homelessness support and community care than initial investment.
The pandemic has highlighted these issues and our children have suffered greatly.
As the mum of a teenager, I am committed to fighting for youth services to be based in our ward.
What action will you take to tackle dog waste on our streets?
Some local authorities have taken a community approach to this and that is what I would want to implement.
We need a team of community volunteers, we would choose an area and then deep clean that area, instal more dog mess bins and get local schools to help design posters that we would put up in the area.
Working together, I would want every dog owner to be invested in keeping our community clean and stronger penalties for repeat offenders.
What are you going to do about the rubbish problems of missed collections and people dumping their rubbish in communal bins?
I would want to arrange a meeting with Cityclean to find out what the problem is and work together to find a solution.
I would want to also speak to residents and encourage them to contact me if a collection was missed and I could chase it up straightaway with Cityclean.
Hopefully, with regular collections, this should mean people can stick to using their designated bins.
What will you do to make yourself known as an active part of our community?
I will continue my community campaigning work.
I’ve spent the past year fighting for renters’ rights and stopping evictions during the pandemic.
A few years ago, I campaigned to stop cuts to children’s centres, including Hollingdean, which my children and I attend.
I was a governor at the local special needs school. I’m secretary of the local parent carers support group.
I actively support the Hands off Moulsecoomb School Campaign.
I’m looking forward to being involved in more community projects.