A chat with Aimee Challenor, the only anti-cuts candidate in Coventry Council byelection
Anybody who knows Aimee Challenor could tell you that her resume is surprisingly impressive for an eighteen year old girl. Born and raised in Coventry, Aimee is a dedicated activist and has, amongst many other things, had such successes as being a part of the Stonewall Trans Advisory Group, being elected Chair of LGBTIQ Greens and being a trustee of Coventry Pride.
Following the death of Labour councillor Phil Townshend, it was announced that Aimee would be standing in the Lower Stoke ward by-election for a seat on Coventry City Council. Molly Arthurs caught up with her to ask about her campaign and hopes for Lower Stoke.
Aimee: Hi Molly, thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.
Molly: Well, thank you for letting me. Let’s jump right into it, then! So, why are you standing to be a councillor? Why is now the right time for you as an individual?
A: I wanted to stand in May, however I wasn’t able to due to my age. I feel that now is a good time for people to stand to be a Councillor. Being a Councillor will give me the chance to push for a fairer Coventry, that listens to people in the city.
M: One of things that people might question about your candidacy IS your age, and whether you’re mature enough for such a crucial job. How are you going to overcome this preconception?
A: Young people have been looked over in politics for a long time, but I feel that Mhairi Black has shown that young people can take part in politics really effectively, and push for a lot of positive work. Coventry is a city that has two universities (Coventry University, and the University of Warwick); we have a significantly large student population, so I think it would be really good if we could have our council reflect that by having some younger councillors.
M: You’re obviously really passionate about the area – how long have you lived in Coventry? What are some of your favourite things about the city?
A: I’ve lived in Coventry all of my life. Some of my fondest memories involve Coventry holding the Olympic Football, and the annual Godiva Festival. Having grown up in Coventry, I want to see it do well. We have so much potential as a city, and I feel like at the moment, that potential is going to waste.
M: Would you say you’re particularly involved in the community? What have you done already for Coventry?
A: I’m really lucky to have the opportunity to volunteer for several charities across the city. I’m a trustee of Coventry Pride, which gives me the wonderful chance to see the diversity of our city. It’s really rewarding seeing all of the hard work come together in the main Pride event, and also in the other events we organise, such as Coventry’s first Transgender Day of Remembrance last November. I’ve also volunteered with the local 38 Degrees Action Group, campaigning in the city to help raise awareness of TTIP and to try and save our NHS.
M: Aside from that, why are you the best person to represent the residents of your area?
A: We have a Labour led Council in Coventry, and they’ve approved £5.2 million pounds in hard-hitting cuts to services across the city. On top of this, they’ve put us into the West Midlands Combined Authority, ignoring the residents wishes; we called for a referendum, and they refused. It is obvious that they don’t listen to Coventry residents. Surely it’s time for change? I’ve lived in Coventry, in the Lower Stoke ward, and I know that these cuts will deeply affect many families. I can listen to the people of Lower Stoke and make sure I’m standing up for them.
M: Well, the problem is that lots of people are really disenfranchised with the local government system at the moment and doubt if their vote counts. In a Labour led council, how do you plan to make an impact?
A: The issue we have at the moment is that the council faces very little scrutiny. If Lower Stoke elect a Green councillor they will be electing someone who can hold the council to account. I can point out when the council are contradicting themselves. I will be able to give the residents of Lower Stoke a genuine voice.
M: On the topic of giving the residents a voice, how are you hoping to best communicate with your constituents?
A: Ward Forums are key, but also in the modern era so is keeping active on Social Media. So anyone can contact me via twitter or Facebook as well as by email. I really want people to be able to feel that they can reach out to me with any local issues that the council can help with, so that I can try my utmost to solve them.
M: Can you give an example of three key issues that you aim to target in the area?
A: Lower Stoke seems to have been looked over recently, there is lots going on in other wards, but we’ve just been left out and I want to change that. Coventry wide we still have the chance to push against the budget cuts which will affect so many. Finally, Coventry is in the midst of a housing crisis. Over 600 families are homeless, twice the national rate. 14k are waiting for social housing. We desperately need investment in affordable and social homes, linked to local amenities and transport, not large, expensive properties destroying the Greenbelt.
M: Why do you stand out from the other candidates?
A: Coventry Labour recently approved £5m in cuts, Tories are imposing Austerity on us on a Nationwide level, and the Lib Dems and UKIP are fine with this. The Green Party is the only anti-austerity, anti-cuts party in this election.
I also stand out because of my age, hopefully people will be able to see the good that young people can do in politics, and vote for a fresh voice for Lower Stoke.
M: Is there anything else you want to say to the people of Lower Stoke?
A: On the 11th of February, people in Lower Stoke will get the opportunity to vote for a different kind of politics, a politics that listens to people, the kind of politics that pushes for the Common Good. On the 11th of February people can say no more to the politics of the past, and bring in the politics of the future. There is a real opportunity for a fairer Coventry, so please use your vote wisely and vote Green.
M: Thank you for letting me interview you today, Aimee, and best of luck for your election campaign.
A: Thanks Molly, it was a real pleasure.
Interested in helping Aimee with her campaign? Details of her action day on the 7th of February can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/912677562161027/