By Jennifer Corcoran
My name is Jennifer Corcoran and I am standing as a candidate in the local elections in Kew Ward, Sefton this year.
My constituency is Southport where I was born and have always lived. My parents live in the town and I have raised my family here. With four children and another on the way, I have a real insight into how education, family services and health services have changed over the last decade or more.
I first became a mother in 2000, with my second child being born in 2003 and my third in 2009. I benefitted from the wonderful Sure Start services and have made lifelong friends with other parents and helped others still by putting them in touch with support such as breastfeeding counsellors. I was able to work and achieve a degree due to the original tax credits system.
By the time my fourth child was born in 2018, everything had changed. Now the systems have become more complex, and users seem to be more criticised. I see friends having children with far less structured community support in place, and health and education professionals stretched too far and exploited for their vocation.
I was a civil servant for many years, and this prevented me being actively engaged with the Labour Party, but I have always been a member of a trade union and encouraged others to do the same. I supported strikes and taught my children why they were happening when I was on strike or their teachers were.
I was a passionate Equality and Diversity representative and always found this educational and rewarding. This role started when I realised the evening shift I worked on did not always access the same development events as our day shift counterparts. I liaised with managers and negotiated some training taking place in the evening. Where this was not possible for any reason, we were allowed to attend in the day if we were available, and/or have a delegate attend and relay the content to try and redress the balance and ensure access to opportunity was improved.
I left the Civil Service a few months before the 2017 General Election to move to working in law, another area that I see as helping people and addressing injustice.
Seeing how close we were to a Labour government inspired me to join the Party and become much more involved.
In the 2018 Local Elections, our CLP got the first two Labour councillors elected in Sefton since its formation in 1974, and one was in my ward. I was proud to have played a small part in the campaign and was even more involved when it came to selecting our next candidate for the 2019 Local Elections where we achieved another Labour councillor in my ward.
When ward members asked whether I had considered becoming a councillor, I gave it a lot of thought – how would it fit around my parenting responsibilities, my full time work role and the volunteer work I do for the local theatre?
I discussed it with my family as I knew it was a commitment that affected us all, but I also knew that working mothers are an under-represented demographic precisely because of the commitment required. With the support of my family and comrades as well as an agreement with work that I could work more flexibly if elected, I applied to be a councillor for the first time in 2019.
I was really proud to be selected to stand for the 2020 elections in my home ward and set to work shadowing our councillors where it was appropriate and canvassing residents which also fed into campaigning for the 2019 General Election. I knew I wanted to run my campaign based on listening to people, showing my commitment through deeds more than words and maintaining positivity, rather than mud-slinging.
When the pandemic halted the elections, the campaign continued. Community groups rapidly formed as a response to Covid-19 and I joined them to act as a Ward champion, using my local knowledge and campaign experience to help put residents in touch with help and with each other.
Kew Ward has a lot of families with children living here, multiple schools, a further education college and the town’s hospital.
During the first lockdown, many parents were juggling home-schooling with work, and had children outgrowing their clothes, but limited access to buy more due to shops being closed, or incomes being affected by furlough. Community engagement meant many residents were able to offer their pre-loved items to a family that could use them, and in turn collect from someone else in the area as well as sharing tips and tricks on getting through lockdown. It was a pleasure to be a part of and I will continue to promote such engagement.
We all know that our NHS has also been starved of resource and carved up for profit. I am determined to fight to retain the services we still have, and raise awareness of the cuts and callous way the staff are treated. In Southport, we have already lost children’s A&E as well as much of our antenatal and post-natal services. I am a member of Keep our NHS Public as well as the local campaign group who regularly protest the cuts and show support for the staff. I will continue to educate myself and strive to spread awareness and fight all cuts and injustice.
The everyday struggles of renters were amplified by the pandemic too. My ward hosted a speaker from Acorn, the renters union and I subsequently attended their training. Following this, I set up a group for local renters to encourage them to join Acorn, and to signpost them to their rights.
Homeowners are not immune to the exploitation of capitalism either as many residents in the new builds here can attest to. Working with our existing Councillors, I am keen to bring the residents together and hold the housebuilding companies to account.
I believe a safe home is one of the most basic needs we have and should be a right for all, no matter what their circumstances.
I am very grateful I was allowed to stand again this year. I believe can make a difference by continuing to engage with residents and amplifying their voices for them, their families and our community.
Jennifer Corcoran is a local council candidate in in Kew Ward, Sefton.
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