It was a pleasure to interview Liberal Democrat councillor for the Canbury Ward of Kingston, Caroline Kerr, on the topics of the roles of councillor, the current priorities of Kingston Council and the Council’s jurisdiction.

Just to start, what got you into politics in the first place?
There were two strands as to why I entered politics. Firstly, the Brexit referendum result. I was so shocked and frustrated by the result, and I felt I needed to do more to campaign in the future. Secondly, I supported Ed Davey. I wanted to do something more community based, and, once I started knocking on doors, I found out that I actually enjoyed it. I had a friend, Diane White, who was a councillor, and who asked me to be a councillor, having been asked to do so by Ed Davey. Due to the referendum result, and due to my journalist background, I thought this was a pivotal time to take up the opportunity.

What is your role as a councillor? 
My key role as a councillor is to be a point of contact, and representative, for all the residents in the ward when they have a specific problem. An example of this would be the proposed felling of poplar trees on Dinton Green, a move opposed by many local residents. Councillors must also set the strategic direction, for example for the civil service.

Do you think councillors have sufficient power?
For what we are asked to do, we don’t have enough power, as we often don’t have the ability to make independent decisions. A good example of this is housing requirements; Kingston Council is now obliged to supply 1,300 new homes each year, a rise from 600 per year previously. If the Council is unable to provide this number, it undergoes a judicial review, which can lead to power being completely taken out of our hands which means the process is even less democratic. Another example is SEN; 3,577 young people have SEN in Kingston, whom we must provide for, and yet we don’t have control over funding of of this service. Therefore it would be beneficial to the Council to have more power. 

What are the current priorities of Kingston Council?
A top priority is rebuilding the Cambridge Road Estate in order to increase the number of council homes in Kingston, which hasn’t been done for 20 years. The Council aims to more than double the number of homes there, as many are desperate for homes and can wait up to 2 years However we also want to reduce crime in the estate; as it was designed over 50 years ago, alleyways and multiple exits mean crime is commonplace. Another priority for us is increasing secondary school places, of which there currently isn’t enough.

What do you think about the GoCycle scheme in Kingston?
The two biggest health risks in Britain are air pollution and obesity; getting people out of their cars and cycling has a positive impact against each of these problems. There may be short term issues in terms of pollution and congestion in central Kingston as the cycleways are built, but I believe that in the long term the scheme will have a positive impact on Kingston. If we want more people to cycle, we need to give them the means to do so, and this is what GoCycle does.

Hence being a councillor is a very interesting role, even though many don’t realise the important, and ever changing and varied, role of the councillor.