500 Words from Sarah Hill

Some people have said I must be crazy to stand for the council at a time when we are facing four years of financial cuts from the ConDem coalition government.

My only excuse is that I’ve always enjoyed a challenge. There’s a huge and many faceted job to do and I very much want to be part of it.

For a start there’s Stoke Labour Party itself. There was a time when, as they say, they weighed the Labour vote. That time has long gone. The blunt truth is that our party lost the trust of the people it sought to serve through an arrogant failure to listen. The voters’ revenge came, as we know, in the loss of many seats and a period of serious political instability.

Obviously I hope that Labour has a clear majority in May but whatever the political complexion of the new administration there are major challenges to be faced:

* Managing with fewer resources now and over the next few years

* Getting clarity about what sort of council we want to be ““ how big a provider of services do want to be? ““ how do we better involve the voluntary sector? ““ how do we help people engage in the process more?

As a city we lack confidence and we lack pride. Closed shops, derelict buildings, brownfield sites ““ we all know how dispiriting this is. We also know how great it is when you come out of Stoke station and see the new 6th Form College and new university buildings going up.

To attract the investment that creates jobs we must continue to make the city more attractive. Our 3 Labour MPs are working hard for this and a strong Labour council would work with them on this.

As I said at the start I’ve always liked a challenge and looking back over my life in Stoke I can see that I’ve always worked outside my comfort zone. After graduating from Keele I worked as a social worker in the City, dealing with a bewildering array of social and human problems. I saw the distress it could cause and sometimes the sheer heroism which people could show in the most dreadful circumstances. Eventually I became an assistant director of social services, which taught me – from the inside – how local government worked and how relationships between officers and councillors could be meaningful and productive. I was always clear that my role as an officer was to advise and I came to value those councillors who were happy to see me as someone who was there to help rather than hinder their decision making.

When I moved on to be principal lecturer in social work at Staffs University I thought it might be my last job. How wrong I was. Election to the council last May and my subsequent appointment to the cabinet showed me what I really wanted to do. I decided to leave my job so I could concentrate all my efforts on my council role.

These next four years are going to be very hard for us.It’s a huge job and I feel that I’ve got the skills, passion and enthusiasm to help the City move on to much better things.