Public ownership is the means to improving people’s lives

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Vital services must remain in public hands, argues Ben Hickman (stock image)

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 Ben Hickman, the Labour Party candidate, shares his thoughts

I love Canterbury. I’ve lived here most of my adult life, and I’m excited that the city is finally starting to get the representation its people deserve. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than being part of this positive change.

Last year, I’d hoped, but never expected, that Canterbury would return a socialist single mother to Westminster as its Member of Parliament. But it did just that, and that remains one of the proudest days of my life: it was a moment when so many of us knew for certain Canterbury was the home that, deep down, we’d always felt it to be.

When I stood for Canterbury North last year I came second, but we in the local Labour Party weren’t predicting we’d win the seat. Everything has changed since then, and for me that’s because the many, rather than the few, of Canterbury have found their political voice.

Labour candidate Ben Hickman

I work in Canterbury North as a lecturer at the University of Kent, and — a long time ago now, back when they called it UKC — I was an undergraduate student here. I’ve got a real stake in getting a Labour county councillor elected, and a sense of the needs and strengths of the area, as well as how we can make the university work for local residents.

At the end of the day, I’m in the Labour Party because I believe in the public ownership of public services, and in the power of a local and national government to improve people’s lives. To this end, I want to say what my priorities would be as a country councilor.

Something needs to be done about public transport and clean air. Kent is one of the wealthiest areas in the world, so it is a scandal that parts of the county are unreachable for some of its residents. If rectifying that requires more public subsidies or obligations imposed on private bus services, then so be it — we need regular, cheap, safe shuttle services to the villages that don’t end at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. But this is not just for those without a car: Canterbury has long since needed a proper plan for public transport to improve the shocking air quality of its outskirts — and Canterbury North should be a key part in such a plan.

Secondly, we have to invest in a new local hospital. Canterbury should be at the heart of local NHS plans for East Kent. I would work with our local MP, Rosie Duffield, to deliver a new hospital for our city. I also want to properly fund social care: KCC has stripped people of their dignity as social care budgets have laid waste to home helpthis must change.

Thirdly, I want KCC to have a representative who is vigilant about privatization, and this applies to the whole county. We need to police Tory councilors’ mania for outsourcing — of education, of adult care, even of its own offices.

Finally, I want Canterbury North to benefit from its university, making sure that the actual area the university is in, Blean and aroundabouts, is a beneficiary of the community work, educational outreach and charity activities Kent does.

If you vote Labour on November 15, we can fight: for a new hospital for Canterbury; to reverse the enormous steps backwards the area has taken on social care; to start supporting local schools again; and to support our communities with accessible public transport. 

It’d be a privilege to be your Labour county councilor, and I hope you can vote for me on the 15th.

Ben Hickman is a lecturer in modern poetry at the University of Kent and director of the Centre for Modern Poetry

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

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