In June 2017, Penny Post interviewed Helen Simpson who had recently been elected Deputy Mayor of Hungerford. Since then then, she has been elected Mayor (with former Mayor Keith Knight becoming her deputy). We caught up with her in August 2018 to find out what she’s been up to in her first three months, how she views her role and what she hopes to achieve in the remainder of her period in office.
8 May 2018 was an amazing day for me: at the Full Council meeting that evening I was unanimously voted in as Mayor of Hungerford. I am so proud to represent a town I love so much. Hungerford isn’t just a community – to me, it’s a family. I will spend my year in office representing that family.
I’m now three months into my role and I can honestly say I’m absolutely loving the challenge. So far I’ve been privileged to honour this year’s Freedom of the Town awardees; witnessed the start of Hungerford’s Neighbourhood Plan project; presented the prizes for Hungerford in Bloom and the grant awards (over £21,000 in all) to over 20 community groups and charities in and around the town; signed a 99-year lease on the library building; and welcomed our Twinning visitors from Ligueil. Sadly I was away for the launch of HADCAF and also the salute on Armed Forces Day.
I’m often asked what I would like to achieve in my Mayoral year. The simple answer is you can’t actually make any decisions solely; but you can raise the profile of projects you are passionate about. Hungerford Town Council is a team. The best way of achieving change in our community is by bringing new ideas to the team; collectively we can make positive changes that benefit the whole community. I work closely with my Deputy, former Mayor Keith Knight. Many of the projects that are now reaching fruition, such as the transfer of the Library, were ones that were started during his tenure.
Before I joined the Town Council I often felt detached from HTC, I didn’t know any of the councillors, or understand the challenges they faced. I know now the dedication of these amazing volunteers and have so much respect for them all. I hope in some way I may be able to close the gap. I have lived in Hungerford for 30 years; my father was born here; my children went to local schools; also worked in the town after leaving school. The residents know me, which really helps. I feel it gives them confidence to share their concerns. I like being a Mayor whom residents will sometimes praise and sometimes criticise. The main thing is that they should they feel at ease with the communication.
I know some of you would like to press me further – come on, Helen, you must have a wish-list. Well, OK, I do…
• I would love to see a more vibrant high street. I am always asked, “Why can’t we have a shop where we can buy basic everyday clothing and school uniforms?”
• I would love HTC to build a splash park for younger children, as well as a soft play centre with perhaps a milkshake bar. I think our young people are fairly overlooked and need more local amenities. I always travelled outside of the town when my own children were small but I’d prefer residents to have the option to stay local where at all possible.
• I’d love to change the floral displays in the high street. I really like the large tiered containers with built in water reservoirs seen in other towns nearby. I would like them to be sponsored and planted by local companies or groups.
• I’d also love to get the welcome signs erected on the entrances to our town, and perhaps consider controlling our own grass cutting.
• Councillor surgeries are another aspiration; the police surgeries have been really successful in the town and HTC could do something similar.
• I’d also like to start a young persons’ council group that can feed into full council monthly meetings.
• Car parking is going to be HTC’s next challenge, I’d love to see a new car park built in a central location for long- and short-stay visitors, I’d also like to have a scheme were residents can have 15 minutes of free parking as this would ensure we don’t lose that vital quick ‘stop and shop’ trade from the town.
As you can see I have many goals and aspirations, I can’t wait to spend the next nine months of office raising your concerns whilst at the same time celebrating the many successes. Wearing the chain and representing Hungerford is an absolute honour. I will continue to serve the community and fight for the causes I know are important to you.
Mayor of Hungerford
To contact Helen, or any of the councillors or officers of Hungerford Town Council, please click here.
For more information on the following matters which Helen has touched on above, please click on the following links:
• For Penny Post’s reports on the activities of Hungerford Town Council (including regular updates on the progress with the Library) – see the archive here.