A few guessed it, and a few got it wrong… but here it is, the final [sob] Colcestrian Colchester Candidate Q&A with our very own holder of the Portfolio for Street and Waste Services, keen footballer and golfer, the guy who tried to oust MP Bernard Jenkin from his ivory tower…
Meet Dominic Graham, Liberal Democrat Candidate and standing Councillor for Mile End…
Dominic grew up in Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear and studied law at University of Central Lancashire. His post graduate study was in York. At university he met his wife, Gemma, an Essex girl from Kelvedon and someone who is also standing for election.
Dominic lived in York for a number of years before moving south, first to London then to our fine hometown of Colchester. He’s the father of 2 young children – Number 3 due in the summer.
Mr Graham is very active on social media and usually responds to the huge amount of traffic sent his way. I am going to just imagine that there might be a few creators of that traffic with their fingertips twitching as they read this…
- Simple one to get going – what’s your full name and what do you like to be known as?
Dominic Graham. Most people call me Dom.
2. What do you like most about the Ward you are standing for, and what made you want to stand this time?
I was elected as a councillor in Mile End in May 2014. I want to continue my work in the community for many years to come.
There’s so much going on in Mile End. The hospital, the football stadium, the rugby club, part of Highwoods country park, the main railway station. And of course, there is plenty of new development in Mile End, both residential and commercial.
3. If you don’t live in the Ward you’re standing for, why did you choose that Ward rather than your own?
I live approximately 50 yards outside the Mile End ward boundary. Part of the boundary is the railway line, which I can see from my living room.
When I decided to stand as a councillor there were already three Lib Dem councillors in Castle. Because I live so close to the border with Mile End, I decided to apply to be a candidate and, thanks to the support of Anne Turrell and Martin Goss, I was lucky enough to be selected as candidate.
4. What political party are you aligned with, if any, and why?
We stand for fairness, freedom, equality for all. Our policies are voted by our members, not dictated by the party elite. This means our policies (local and national) tend to have significant debate before they’re agreed and therefore they must be evidence-based, which really speaks to me.
5. Do you think your political party’s actions at a national level will have an effect on you locally?
It’s hard to say. As everyone knows, the Liberal Democrats took a hammering at the general election last year. This has led to our MPs getting even less press coverage than previously.
But the other parties always tend to get more coverage from the national media, rightly or wrongly. For Liberal Democrats to win anywhere it’s important to have a good local presence.
6. Everyone needs a break – what are your favourite hobbies?
My family. I have 2 young children and a 3rd coming in the summer. I’ve spent a great deal of time in soft play areas recently as the weather has been so poor. Hopefully we’re starting to see some better weather now so we can enjoy castle parks, Highwoods country park and the zoo, which are my daughters’ favourites.
If I find a spare few minutes somewhere, I love all kinds of sport, especially football. I Although I’m a Newcastle Utd fan so the beautiful game is not particularly beautiful at the moment!
7. When not doing politics, what does your day usually consist of?
I work full time as a solicitor. I represent individuals who have suffered medical negligence. This can range from a delayed diagnosis of cancer, to a negligent eye operation causing permanent blindness, to negligent hip replacement surgery.
I have always acted for individuals in the most vulnerable time of their lives. I only ever meet people when something drastic has gone wrong. I am sometimes called unpleasant names – ambulance chaser is a common one – but it’s usually only those who don’t understand the process or the human suffering in the background.
8. How do you feel Colchester Borough Council currently performs for Colchester?
Very well. We have done a lot of good, especially in recent years.
We’ve built council houses, we’ve reduced carbon emissions significantly, we’re sending less waste to landfill than anyone else in Essex etc etc.
Financially, we are very strong and very responsible.
9. What is the best thing about Colchester and what one thing would you change tomorrow about Colchester if you could?
Best thing – the variation. The urban centre, the rural parts, the coast. Not many places have it all like we have.
I love the heritage of the town and I’m pleased were putting lots of money into supporting that side of things.
One thing I’d change – I’d transfer control of roads and highways from Essex county council to Colchester borough council. I feel that it needs to be operated from a local level to be more effective. It’s the number 1 complaint on the doorstep and it’s never fun to say “it’s not Colchester council, it’s Essex council, but I’ll try to help where I can”. It’s deeply unsatisfying.
10. Who are your heroes?
Alan Shearer, Peter Beardsley and Kevin Keegan are my sporting heroes. Maybe Rafa Benitez will join them if he performs a miracle and avoids relegation.
Politically, I’m a huge fan of Norman Lamb MP. His work in the coalition years to increase awareness of mental health issues and increase funding, which sadly went largely unnoticed. History will judge him very well.
11. What would you do to promote disabled rights if you are a Councillor after the election?
The Liberal Democrats have a strong record on disability rights, which comes from our steadfast belief in fairness and equality.
I’ve been talking to councillors from all parties this year (since being on cabinet). Parking and access are big issues, and I’ll continue to protect and improve those services.
12. What would you do for women’s rights in the town once election day is passed?
Again, the Liberal Democrats have a strong record on equality. Personally, I consider myself a feminist and will push for equality at every opportunity.
Recently I’ve discovered the Twitter account @EverydaySexism which provides shocking examples of the behaviour women endure on a daily basis. I have 2 daughters and it makes me sad and angry that they will have to deal with that. If I can change it, even a small amount, then I will.
13. What is your view on the spread of fines for the rough sleeping and homeless?
I am 100% against this. It was proposed in Chelmsford recently and rightly caused outrage.
It doesn’t help the homeless people, it’s heartless. And the fines will never be paid so more money is spent recovering the unrecoverable, so it’s not intelligent. A double whammy.
14. Do you think the ‘Living Wage’ is truly a living wage?
Colchester Borough Council pay the REAL living wage.
George Osborne’s recent policy is below that level and only paid to over 25s. Mr Osborne has simply rebranded the minimum wage. People will always see through that sort of behaviour.
15. Are you happy to keep promoting Colchester as a welcoming place for refugees?
Definitely. It’s one of, if not the best, policies that I’ve been part of since being a cabinet member. It was also very pleasing that there has been cross party support for this initiative.
These people have suffered unimaginable trauma. They are being bombed with mustard gas by their own government. We are lucky enough to be able to help. We should, and we do.
16. What is the biggest problem in the Ward you are standing in?
We have three big problems:
1. The performance of Colchester hospital,
2. The reliability of the railways into London, and
3. Highways. Either the poor surface of the roads or the congestion.
17. Which green and ecologically-wise policies do you think Colchester borough should instigate?
We’ve done a lot already and we have plans for more.
– we are nationwide leaders in carbon reduction – 35% in recent years. We are held up as an example to other councils of what can be achieved.
– we send less black bag waste to landfill than anywhere else in Essex.
– we have installed over 2,000 solar panels on council properties.
We are committed to free parking for electric cars and we will seek further discussions with bus companies to lower the pollution levels in the town centre, which currently are a significant problem.
18. Tollgate Village, Northern Gateway… views?
Tollgate Village went against the Local Plan. I’d like to see more explanation of the strategic importance of the Local Plan. There is often confusion about the Local Plan. It is separate from the planning committee. Local Plan sets the policy. Planning Committee implements the policy.
The Local Plan is currently being updated so I’d urge all residents to feed their views into the committee asap.
Northern Gateway is different. Firstly, in contrast to Tollgate Village, there aren’t going to be any shops whatsoever. So it’s not the case that they’re in competition.
Secondly, the plans looks fantastic. It will be a great asset to Colchester and it will be very popular. Mile End residents are very supportive of the plans.
19. Do you think our current government and electoral system is fit for purpose?
That is a huge topic, capable of several dissertations!
Cutting to the chase, locally we have the right balance with elections by thirds. All-up elections are not helpful p, but I see why it was necessary this time.
I prefer the cabinet system to the committee system.
Nationally, I would prefer proportional. It’s absurd that a government can be voted into power by around a quarter of voters.
20. Are you having second thoughts?
Not at all.