Originally from South Africa, Brendon and family have lived in Kent for 30 years, the past 8 in Southborough. After retiring as Head of Lambeth Music Service, Brendon now teaches Science at Knole Academy. Brendon is standing for the Liberal Democrats in Southborough North this May. In this column for this week's Times of Tunbridge Wells, he explains the importance of getting stuck in to local politics
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My name is Brendon Le Page and I will be standing for the Lib Dems in Southborough North this May. I love Southborough - it's a great place to be - I have lived here for the past eight years with my wife and two children. I’m not a politician - I’m a resident trying to do my best and this is the first time I’ve stood for election. But I found myself increasingly shouting from the sidelines while various political events have been unfurling around me (locally the £11m wasted on Calverley Square, and the Government’s response to Covid). So I felt it was only right to roll my sleeves up and get involved.
Being a newcomer to politics has its advantages - I bring my experiences from a lifetime career in teaching, as well as a fresh perspective, with residents’ concerns to the forefront of my mind.
Southborough is a fantastic place to live. We have a beautiful Common, a thriving High Street and a fantastic local community that is quite distinct from Tunbridge Wells. However, we are not without our problems such as congestion, parking and of course the bin collection fiasco. Some of these, such as the garden waste saga, are shared with others across the Borough.
Much of this comes down to getting the basics right. The Conservative-run council sacrificed quality for price when negotiating the waste collection contract with Urbaser. The old adage ‘buy cheap, pay twice’ springs to mind, as countless hours of council time have gone into resolving problems, and we are now forced to pay an extra £14,000 EVERY MONTH for Urbaser to collect garden waste. This kind of mismanagement means that our financial reserves have been dwindling.
The same can be seen with the quality of sports provision in Tunbridge Wells compared with Tonbridge, where a local trust runs their services far more effectively. Council budgets are tight, and we may need to look at what we can realistically offer as a local authority. But we must first focus on delivering on the core services residents expect of us. Another way to make the most of limited resources is to make sure we are delivering what residents really want and prioritise. Key to this is good public engagement, early on in a process of communication, so residents can shape the outcome rather than be presented with a fait accompli.
The Conservatives have been running Tunbridge Wells Borough Council for the past 25 years, and it’s time for some fresh ideas, vigour and enthusiasm in our Borough.They currently govern with a minority, and could lose power in May. This is an exciting time to be a voter: for the first time in a generation, your vote could determine who runs our local area. Please take time to examine what we have to offer, and make the most of this opportunity for change here in Tunbridge Wells.