Councillor Spotlight is a series where Green Party UK put the spotlight on a Green Councillor from either England or Wales, asking them a set of questions and seeing how they’re getting on in their role. This month, it's the turn of Cllr. Amanda Onwuemene (Birkenhead and Tranmere), one of 13 Wirral Councillors working hard for their communities in Wirral. Read on to find out more ⬇️
First of all, what motivated you to stand as a candidate?
I live in my ward and have done for many years, my immediate family also live within the ward or in surrounding wards.
I chose to stand as a Green Party Councillor as I felt the need to act on some of the issues around poor health statistics and worsening environmental issues that were becoming increasingly noticeable. I have a background in health, lecturing, quality assurance and mental health.
All of which I believe qualifies me to be a voice within council to scrutinise the councils public health policies and social care contracts to ensure that the ongoing improvement in the determinants of health and wellbeing and quality, equality and equity in service provision, and fair employment rights, benefits and pay awards are at the forefront of the council’s proposals and the Wirral Plan.
In the run up to election, what did you find most surprising on the campaign trail and was there anything that you learned that perhaps changed the way you campaigned?
I would say that that having never been involved in an election before, every part of the campaign trail was not so much a surprise, I’d read Target to Win!
It was however, enlightening, coming from a quality assurance background to see that there was a formula to be followed that would lead to increased votes and hopefully a win on the night. I particularly enjoyed meeting and talking to residents and realising very quickly that the concerns I had for the ward were shared by the people I hoped would be voting for me.
I think that really powered me on as I then felt I could campaign for things I felt really strongly about knowing I had the support of the residents and neighbours in my ward. We were all ‘on the same page’.
At what stage did you think…’wow I might actually win here? Was there a pivotal moment?
That moment came at the actual count…the energy in the room was really high and as I observed the table and noted quickly the votes coming in I was overjoyed to see the number of votes against my name.
It was a fantastic feeling to know that all of these people who may or may not have met me or may have just read about me in out leaflets, had decided to put their faith in me and given me their vote. I felt extremely proud and honoured as well as a real sense of responsibility to ensure that I carried out my councillor duties to the absolute best of my abilities.
Are there any tips you would give to someone that is about to start their own election campaign for council?
Door knocking for me was the best part of the election campaign, which is lucky as its also crucial to understand why your residents want a councillor in the first place. Door knocking sets out your job description as far as your residents are concerned, you get a clear steer as to what they will want and need you to do.
You are the interface between the council and your resident’s but your residents are the people who voted for you. You work for them and with the council. Make sure you have a good supportive group around you, include everyone you can think of or at least give them the opportunity to join.
The work to get elected is always going to take a lot of energy so take care of yourself along the way, take breaks, eat good food and laugh, laugh a lot!
You’ve been a councillor since May 2022. What can you tell us about your experiences so far?
Well, it’s been a steep learning curve. Since being elected it’s been quite a whirl for me of meeting residents (of course!), officers, building relationships with the organisations within my ward, the shop keepers, GPs, housing officers, in fact everyone who has an impact on the residents in my ward.
I have a real curiosity about people and being a councillor supports me in finding out what or who is behind every door in my ward! Becoming a councillor has also opened up a wave of learning opportunities, inhouse with the council's own provision, which is extremely helpful in supporting me in this role.
The Association of Green Councillors(AGC) is another very useful organisation to join, again providing lots of learning packages and initiatives and useful data and reports which can make life so much easier and the Local Government Association (LGA)is another brilliant find for training and support.
Conference is a fantastic way of getting to understand how the Green Party runs and manages itself, in a way that is quite extraordinary for a political party.
Attendance is a must if you are interested in understanding how it works or if you want to get involved in the process itself. It is also great for meeting like minded people and sharing ideas. There are also regional conferences which are an excellent way of meeting people more local to my ward. I really enjoy attending these too as I’m more likely to meet up with the same people again and friendships can form alongside a sense of really getting to know someone.
Wirral Council has a committee system. Last year I sat on Adults, Social Care and Public Health Committee, Constitution and Standards and health and Wellbeing. This Year I am sitting on Adults, Social Care and Public Health Committee. I feel that I am in the right place to fulfil the reasons that I stood to be a councillor. To improve the health and welfare of the people living in my ward.
And can you tell us about your proudest achievements since being elected as councillor?
My first was probably becoming the Green Party's National Spokesperson for Policing and Domestic Violence. You can follow me on @Amanda_Spoke …and my second just a couple of weeks ago at Autumn Conference 2023 in Brighton, where I presented the Greens of Colour Speech to Conference with Tyrone Scott.
You were elected to Wirral Borough Council which Green Policies are you keen to implement there?
Where do I start! If you’ve listened to my speech, you will understand where I’m coming from!! I am keen to implement the following Green Party Policies:
• Air Pollution- This is both an environmental and public health emergency which damages health of the earth and all of those living on it and reduces our life span.
• Housing policy- setting genuinely affordable rents for secure, warm and comfortable homes that are appropriate to the needs of the residents. Along side this policy would have to run the Local Planning and the Built Environment because we need to protect and encourage open green spaces and biodiversity for overall planet and peoples health.
• £15 an hour minimum wage and a universal wage to lift people out of poverty and allow them independence and self- determination in life.
I think with the implementation of these few policies alone, there would be a rise in life expectancy, improved overall health and well being and mental health outcomes. A basic need of all people is a warm affordable home, green open spaces and freedom from debt and poverty.
What do you need from the local members and supporters to achieve your goals?
Their continued support and faith in me doing a good job, for I am capable and willing.
Maintaining the dialogue and communication between what is needed and required and how that outcome can be achieved and managed is crucial. Until we are in power in some areas of life, expectations still have to be managed due to Government policies, but with the next General Election there could be a massive swing towards Green Policies. Roll on the day when we have the majority of MPs in the House of Commons.
You have the opportunity to send a message to Green Party members here, what is your message?
If we are to be ready to win a General Election, then we have to be a united party we have to be outward facing and pushing for our policies to be implemented.
We have to be a supportive party, we need to be able to steady and hold one another, take over from one another to give people a rest, know when someone needs a supportive hand.
I believe one way of us becoming more collegiate is through us all taking responsibility to implement the recommendations of the Diverse Matters Report. We have all to work together and this report gives us all a tool that we can share, discuss and work on, alone, through reading it and together through discussion, training, reviewing what we are already doing and what we are comfortable with.
The things we are comfortable with may feel anything but for others, so this party has to be a comfortable space for everyone sharing it. We have to be willing to negotiate and compromise, rather than demand of people, but bring others with us. Are there truly any others? If we consider that there is more that joins us than divides us, then I think we have a good starting point to maintain relationships.
We have a lot of work to do once in power and its important that we are united in changing how the world treats the Earth and every- one on it. We start that journey with us, within the party.
Finally, where would you like to see a Green win next?
The House of Commons!
Thank you Amanda!💚