Paradise lost: the story of childhood garden in Canterbury

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Ahead of the Canterbury North by-election for Kent County Council on November 15, the Journal invited each of the six candidates to submit a contribution. Here Alex Lister, the Lib Dem candidate, shares his thoughts 

When I was young my family lived in a terraced house on Castle Street. It was small, but at the back was an idyllic secret garden with an ancient flint wall fashioned from the same stones as the castle. For us it was a real castle and much of my childhood was spent fending off invisible monster hordes and ruling over a magical kingdom.

One day we discovered a multi-storey car park was to be built behind our house. We thought our tranquil haven would be ruined, but the council promised a thick row of trees would be planted, shielding us from fumes, noise and people staring down over us.

The car park was built and the trees duly planted, so for a while all was fine. Until out of the blue a property developer bought the house next door and cut them all down.

Alex Lister is the Lib Dem candidate

My mother went to the council, certain their promises would be honoured. Sadly, she was mistaken. Nobody wanted to know. The garden was never the same again and a bit of my childhood disappeared forever.

Even as a child I remember the anger I felt that the authorities could act so disgracefully. It’s the same anger I feel today when I see the Tories on Kent County Council awarding themselves an unbelievable 15% pay rise while cutting children’s centres, bus services, breastfeeding clinics, and care for the elderly.

We live in an amazing part of the world. I honestly can’t think of anywhere I’d prefer to live. Not without a Euromillions win at any rate.

But in our glorious surroundings it’s sometimes too easy to turn a blind eye to the trauma that our neighbours and fellow residents are suffering.

To see how bad things are look no further than our local schools. My wife and several of our friends are teachers. They know how dire the situation is. Research shows 94% of staff have to pay for essential classroom materials themselves.

KCC says there’s no money, but don’t forget that last year Tory leader Paul Carter pocketed an extra £7,000 after the councillors’ bumper pay rise.

Our local democracy is split between two polarised groups. On the right we have a complacent ruling elite, many of whom are related to each other and old family friends. On the other end of the political spectrum we have a bitterly divided Labour party, too caught up with anti-semitism and infighting to mount any real opposition.

Only the Lib Dems present a united and coherent alternative to the status quo. We have a hard-won reputation for always working hard and putting people before politics.

We don’t believe in rich versus poor or any other social divides. We exist for everyone whatever their circumstances. Our policies aren’t always the most sexy, but the best policies seldom are.

I have spent two years working to save the Kent & Canterbury Hospital. I do pro bono work for the campaign group CHEK, and earlier this year was elected a public governor for the NHS Trust running our three local hospitals – and I’m now continuing the fight from within.

Campaigning can be a thankless task and since it’s mostly voluntary my family sometimes has to go without. But investing in our future is an investment in my children; I believe it’s worthwhile.

There are problems at the county and the city level which only the Lib Dems can fix. I hope you share my love for the area and my desire to make it even better. I ask residents of Canterbury North to vote for me, Alex Lister, on 15th November.

Alex Lister works in digital communications for charities and the public sector. He lives in Canterbury with his wife and two children

Click the links below to read the contributions by the other five candidates:

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