Like many people, I’ve previously concentrated on national politics. But having been involved in the local party since 2017, and spoken to many people on doorsteps, I’ve seen enough of the impact of Government policies, or lack of them, on our communities. Marcus Rashford has recently raised the profile of the scale of deprivation affecting children in the UK. But there are problems facing all of our children, problems this Government is doing more to create than alleviate.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we must do what we can to help where we can – whether in administration or not. We haven’t got time to wait for 2024. So, it’s for my children that I’m standing for Elmbridge Council.
Our children are being let down
In recent years, my family has grappled with: the impact of underfunding of local secondary schools (which has led to my youngest son travelling miles to school in Hersham, while his old primary school friends just walk down the road to Hinchley Wood, our local school); the chaotic and stressful consequences of the last-year’s A level fiasco on my daughter; and the mismanagement of the University sector during the pandemic, with my eldest son continuing to spend thousands of pounds on accommodation at the University of Warwick that he is not using without any pro-active help or comment from the Government. It feels to me like we are constantly supporting children who are being buffeted by the actions, or inactions, of Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, and Surrey County Council. If you speak to teachers, this a familiar pattern. We’re left having to take things into our own hands and make up for damage of their centralised mismanagement.
Getting involved and making a difference
As an example, I’ve been working with other Liberal Democrat volunteers to get laptops to local school children who have been without access to online learning since the sudden closing of schools on 4th January, itself a situation badly mishandled by Surrey County Council. Whilst it’s true the Government purchased hundreds of thousands of machines, the reality is that the machines have been of a low specification and even, in some cases, had malware on them. A knee-jerk waste of huge amounts of cash, without first seeking the insight from schools of the real problem on the ground, and the main benefit being the creation of a large-number PR story. What’s needed is local knowledge – where are the children who need help and how do we get help to them? So far, we’ve raised over £5500 and delivered 37 refurbished and new laptops to Hinchley Wood and Esher High Secondaries, Claygate Primary and here in Long Ditton to St Mary’s Primary.
In speaking with teachers during this campaign, the problem of mismanagement has been underlined. This government doesn’t understand either children or education. The things they do are misguided or irrelevant. The GCSE and A Level chaos last summer has been followed up by plans to pay for tutors that don’t exist and then cram extra teaching on top of children who need to be nurtured and helped, not overloaded and lost. It’s like some sort of bizarre 1950s grammar school educational methodology gone mad – completely ill-suited to today’s society. Gavin Williamson is yet another example of a minister completely out of his depth.
Knowing and caring about our community
The bottom line is that we need councillors who know their communities and care. Leave teaching to teachers, hold them up and support the fantastic role they play in our communities – and help them by helping the families and the children they teach. Whether this is by helping with foodbanks, supplying extra laptops, or being there to listen to the everyday issues of families and do what we can to help.
Whilst we wait for the Conservatives to deliver that spending review promised in 2017, there’s a job that needs doing looking after people on the ground. That’s why I’m standing as a Liberal Democrat candidate for Elmbridge Borough Council. Myself and my fellow Lib Dems standing in both the Elmbridge and Surrey County Council elections really care about our local community.
It’s time to care.
Jez Langham is the provisional candidate standing for Elmbridge Borough Council in the ward of Long Ditton. He moved with his wife, Sophie, to the area in 1997 and has three children: Thomas, 21, Evie, 19 and Edward, 12.