Sticking with the same Ward as last time, this time we meet Susan Allen, Green Candidate for Old Heath & The Hythe…
Straight to Questions!
Colcestrian – Simple one to get going – what’s your full name and what do you like to be known as?
Susan – Susan Lorna Allen – known as Susan or Sue – I answer to both!
Colcestrian – What do you like most about the Ward you are standing for, and what made you want to stand this time?
Susan – Its variety – the river, green spaces, modern housing, Victorian and Edwardian properties, plus some even older residences. The River running along one side and farm fields on another with homes, shops, industrial and leisure units. It has easy access to Colchester centre and is home to a cosmopolitan community – all ages, all cultures; with lots of activities arranged in Old Heath, Rowhedge and along Hythe Quay. I’m standing because as a resident of the ward (I live in Rowhedge) I am concerned about the lack of constructive intervention to promote homes, transport and businesses which focus on the use of renewable energies and support the needs of the local community. We need to keep as much of our local expenditure within our local community – it makes economic and Green sense.
Colcestrian – You do live in the Ward, what do you think about candidates standing in Wards they don’t live in?
Susan – I have no fixed view… if a candidate works in the ward they’re standing in that’s quite acceptable, if they live an adjacent ward and have family or social links to the ward they’re standing in that might also work – however if they have no knowledge of the ward they’re standing in then obviously they would be on a steep learning curve if they were elected to represent that ward. The choice rests in the hands of the electors of the various wards.
Colcestrian – What political party are you aligned with, if any, and why?
Susan – I’m the 1st choice Green Party candidate for Old Heath & the Hythe. I approached the Green Party and offered to stand as I’d realised they were the only party with a green focus running through all their policies and strategies. I am extremely disappointed by the way the other parties are only environmentally friendly when they think a) it will win votes; b) there is a significant financial reward; or c) it complies with an edict imposed on them by central government or an EU directive. I question the ethics of any party that does not truly focus on social justice, sustainable industry and protection of the environment. It is not about making as much money as possible, or growing as big as you can at the expense of another person or nation: it is about ensuring this planet, our Earth, can support us, our children, our children’s children and all of humanity indefinitely. We cannot expect a planet with finite resources to produce infinite wealth – and what’s more – we don’t need it. Happiness and a sense of well-being come from within and from living in a caring community.
Colcestrian – Do you think your political party’s actions at a national level will have an effect on you locally?
Susan – Yes – the national party’s actions reinforce our local commitment to follow a Greener path to support the local community, local industry and environment. Voters become disillusioned when they see and hear different stories from local and national politicians in the same party.
Colcestrian – Everyone needs a break – what are your favourite hobbies?
Susan – Not so much hobbies as pastimes: Dancing, swimming, keeping fit generally, dog walking, writing and socialising with family and friends.
Colcestrian – When not doing politics, what does your day usually consist of?
Susan – Varies on a daily basis but over the course of a week I probably go to the gym 3-4 times; do some sort of voluntary work 2-3 times; and sit down to write 2-3 times. I’m in the process of switching from a vegetarian to a vegan diet so cooking healthy food is a daily activity as is walking my rescue greyhound twice a day … oh, and I some time aside to meditate most days.
Colcestrian – How do you feel Colchester Borough Council currently performs for Colchester?
Susan – Obviously I feel there is room for improvement otherwise I would not be standing for election as a Green Councillor. I am concerned at the proposed ‘out of town developments, both commercial and residential. I am not against further development per se but I do think we should get our current building projects, transport, renewable energy and ‘ghost town’ issues resolved first…. consolidation of our infrastructure (transport, schools, health & social care services), business rents and private housing rental market need to take priority…. if we use the empty spaces within and above shops plus the neglected warehouses/business premises and brownfield sites in our borough we would be well on the way to addressing our housing shortage. If we opt to become a Unitary Authority we could really manage our borough effectively in adherence of a pre-determined long term sustainable, fair and Green strategy.
Colcestrian – What is the best thing about Colchester and what one thing would you change tomorrow about Colchester if you could?
Susan – Best is our diverse culture and history; we have a growing University within our boundary plus a large military presence … add these to the families living within the borough, the home-owners, businesses, services and farming communities and we have a bubbling cauldron which could turn into the most wonderful green soup.
First we need to change our disjointed policies – we need a sustainable long term strategy, not lots of short term fixes – we need a council and community prepared to be proactive rather than reactive.
Colcestrian – Who are your heroes?
Susan – I don’t do heroes. Putting people, past or present on pedestals is a futile exercise… we’re all human … we are all capable of acts of altruism, of having great ideas, of being creative; and we are all capable of making mistakes.
Colcestrian – What would you do to promote disabled rights if you are a Councillor after the election?
Susan – Ensure the Council employed and listened to a Colchester Disabled Rights Group plus insist every Councillor attends Equality Training courses – maybe actually have a 15 minute session before meetings so they were aware of the impact their decisions might have on disabled people and their fellow human beings from ‘labelled’ minority groups.
Colcestrian – What would you do for women’s rights in the town once election day is passed?
Susan – As above, but this time it would be a Colchester Women’s Rights Group.
I would also consider imposing penalties on councillors who fail to attend training, or use inflammatory language or distasteful humour in meetings… maybe by not allowing them to vote for one session? Informed, reasoned debate is far more effective and constructive.
Colcestrian – What is your view on the spread of fines for the rough sleeping and homeless?
Susan – Ludicrous – fine the county councils and local authorities who fail to make provision for people who are destitute.
I favour supervised hostel accommodation, with health services (especially mental health services). Putting someone in a bedsit or room on their own does little to help, in fact, can make things a whole lot worse. Some of the people sleeping rough are extremely vulnerable and can be taken advantage of – it is criminal to attack them further when they need our support and constructive intervention.
Colcestrian – Do you think the ‘Living Wage’ is truly a living wage?
Susan – No – who does? Only those with more money than they know what to do with! I favour a Citizens Allowance of £100 per week for everyone… if you don’t need it you can give it back or pass it on to a charity of your choice.
Colcestrian – Are you happy to keep promoting Colchester as a welcoming place for refugees?
Susan – I believe most Colchester Borough residents are extremely sympathetic to the plight of the refugees -escaping war-torn countries where they have lost their homes and ability to earn a living; where they, their families and children, are under constant threat of violence, rape, death. By the time they reach our shores they are traumatised and fearful.
I have had sleepless night thinking of the plight of those children and adults struggling to exist in refugee encampments in all weather… I would not wish that for my family, friends or enemy.
So, yes, I am happy to welcome refugees to Colchester. We can do this in a dignified and structured manner – with a compassionate heart.
Colcestrian – What is the biggest problem in the Ward you are standing in?
Susan – It’s newness – this election is the birth of Old Heath & The Hythe Ward … a Ward that spans from the old port of Colchester, along the Hythe to the village of Rowhedge and back again across farmland and MoD land through vast residential estates into the buzz of busy town life.
As your Councillor I will need to listen and take into account the needs of a diverse community; try to make good what’s been made bad by poor planning decisions and transport strategies and, at the same time, fight the constraints of a government imposed Austerity programme which disenfranchises students and young people under 25, disabled people and those in receipt of benefits, including those with only their state pension to rely on.
My initial observation is that East Donyland Parish Council has looked out for the needs of Rowhedge residents pretty well; the Lib Dem Cllrs have also looked out for the needs of Old Heath area, but the Hythe seems to have been left high and dry – not literally – considering the amount of flooding there – but there appears to be cheap build estates aimed at a transient rental market, with little thought to the longer term or the impact on the local community, roads and facilities.
Colcestrian – Which green and ecologically-wise policies do you think Colchester borough should instigate?
Susan – Community renewable energy projects, providing industry, jobs and cheaper, cleaner energy for the whole of Colchester Borough; powering electric buses and lighting along safe and pleasant cycle/pedestrian routes. Providing a cleaner, sustainable environment, which in turn will impact on the health of the community, especially those currently experience breathing difficulties.
Colcestrian – Tollgate Village, Northern Gateway… views?
Susan – Let’s sort out Colchester Town and Colchester Borough infrastructure first. We don’t need more shops we just need to have lower rents for small businesses so we can keep local money circulating in our local economy rather than give it to big business and corporations where it goes to ‘tax haven’ investors. I think the concept of a Milton Keynes type Snow Dome might be worthy of consideration in the long term plan for our borough but would need to have more information on the impact it would have on the environment, local residents, transport links, health services and small businesses before making that decision.
Colcestrian – Do you think our current government and electoral system is fit for purpose?
Susan – No and no. Our current government is the product of a flawed electoral system which can be manipulated by changing constituency boundaries. I have been in favour of Proportional Representation for years. I would like to see Social History & Politics taught in all schools (including primary schools) with the emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of being a UK citizen. A similar training programme could be made available for adults; for those of us with British passports already as well as refugees or immigrants wishing to take up UK citizenship. Learning together might help develop a greater understanding of each other and our democratic foundations.
Colcestrian – Are you having second thoughts?
Susan – No. I knew it was a big step and even bigger commitment when I offered to stand as a Green Party candidate. I don’t believe in being an armchair critic, I believe if we want something done differently we need to stand up and be counted; by voting for what we truly believe in and by representing those beliefs to the best of our ability. I’m fortunate, my pension provides me with sufficient money to live on so I can now devote time and energy to my local community – as their first Green Councillor.
Hope you enjoyed meeting Susan
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If you are a Candidate who hasn’t already connected with me, I have to apologise as I’m at capacity now. Hope you still enjoy the rest of the blogs coming from the backlog I have collected. Do please engage with the public yourself – get on Facebook, Twitter, etc – onwards to election day!