Cllr Mike Bird is the Leader of Walsall Council
The local elections are now over for another year and commiserations are the order of the day to my fellow Conservatives who lost their seats because of the national trend.
In Walsall, we had a different result, seeing the Conservatives defending thirteen seats and retaining all of them, including my own; – I am now looking at a further term, having first been elected in 1980.
I have been asked to analyse the reasons for us “bucking the trend” and I firmly believe they are many and varied.
The pandemic forced us to work in a different way, and our “Resilient Communities Model” was born. This engages our communities at the grassroots level by taking services to them rather than them having to travel to the Civic Centre.
Digitalisation has seen massive savings of £58 million and a seamless transition to the digital age. But we have retained the facility for those without computer skills, or access to facilities, to have paper-based systems for their needs.
A collegiate Cabinet is a must, with each portfolio-holder engaging daily with the officer structure. “Officers make recommendations and Elected Members make decisions “ – a Mantra dear to my heart and that of my Cabinet colleagues.
A Conservative West Midlands Mayor in Andy Street, and a vision of regeneration, have been focal points for our campaign. Offering our residents the chance to have an input into the future for them and their families and children has been a core part of how we work.
Despite the issues played out in Westminster, our two MPs, Wendy Morton and Eddie Hughes, have been loyal to the local cause and our thanks to them must be at the forefront of our success.
Whilst the next 18 months will be a test for us all, Conservatives must stay loyal to our cause and values, despite the setback that we have seen in our local elections.
I am proud to have been a Conservative Councillor for 43 years and a further three years with my current term, interspersed with a term as the Mayor of Walsall – and a disastrous 18 months of Labour control.
Always be aware that despite the supposed ”personal vote”, it’s the Conservative ticket and policies that get us elected – sadly national policy intervenes and muddies the water.
In Walsall we have once more “bucked the trend” as we did last year when we won a seat from Labour for the first time since 1979 – and Eddie Hughes MP won Walsall North after 44 years of Labour occupation (with a brief Conservative win when John Stonehouse did his Reggie Perrin disappearing act to Australia as many will remember or the film showed).
Sir Keir Starmer is not our most serious enemy; it is complacency and accepting defeat.
Walsall is a proud beacon of what can be achieved in adversity which I trust will inspire you to carry on a fight to the opposition with more vigour and determination.
I learned many years ago: “when you lose you don’t cry and win you don’t crow”. However, I trust that this brief article will inspire you to read the Local Government review conducted in January of this year. This will give you an insight into what a good Council looks like and how we can win back these lost seats.
I sincerely hope that this article will invigorate our deposed Conservative councillors to believe that the Labour Party’s success is a loan of our vote which we will recover at the next opportunity.
May I once more offer my commiserations, but light the flame for success in the future.