Twelve questions for the seven candidates in the Hungerford and Kintbury ward for the May 2023 local elections

The Hungerford and Kintbury (H&K) ward is geographically the largest in West Berkshire and the third most populous. It is represented by three district councillors (also known as ward members) and, in common with all the other seats in the district, all will be up for re-election on 4 May 2023. Seven candidates have announced their intention to stand in H&K.

The following seven candidates (listed here alphabetically by surname with their political party and email address) were all sent the questions below by email on 17 March 2023:

Their photos can be seen above, arranged left to right in the same order as the list above.

I look forward to covering what I’m sure will be a constructive and courteous campaign in Hungerford and Kintbury between now and 4 May.

1 What are the main occupations that you’ve had, or still have? 

DB: Jockey; and now shipping horses and escorting them on aircraft throughout the world.

DG: Women’s Royal Navy; information technology, mainly accountancy and supporting and training on software.

BP: My full time employment is the manager of Great Grooms Antiques Centre in Hungerford. I also work part-time at a farm with around 2000 sheep and 60 cattle.

JSH: The steel industry; the mobile communications industry; the broadcasting industry; Director of Greenham Trust; Director/Chair of Trustees of West Berkshire Mencap.

PT: Architect.

TV: Graduate builder for a homebuilder; military survey officer; and managing a research charity and lecturing on aspects of geodata in land and property tax administration. 

TW: Technology marketing roles in commercial organisations; communications, fundraising and event management for non-profit organisations.

2 What do you see as the biggest advantages that the Hungerford & Kintbury (H&K) ward enjoys?

DB: The ward is rich in people who really care about where they live and are prepared to actively engage in their community. Volunteers are the backbone of society and we are blessed to have so many people who give their time freely and selflessly.

DG: We are on the edge of the district: we are, however, very much a community with some of the best countryside in Britain on our doorstep. The AONB surrounds us. Hungerford is a vibrant and successful town. Kintbury is a thriving village with excellent social and recreational facilities. Our villages may be small but most have local facilities.

BP: Our ward is active, diverse and rural with a wonderful variety of businesses attracting a huge number of visitors from the UK and abroad.

JSH: Attractive rural communities in an area of outstanding natural beauty with (mostly!) good local facilities and good road and rail access to nearby towns and to London.

PT: It’s the best place in the world.

TV: Delightful and varied countryside with a well maintained rights-of-way network; good access by rail and motorway to southern England and by local roads to pleasant towns and most facilities.

TW: Access to countryside, such as commons, marshes and waterways, rare chalk streams,  the downs and nature reserves. Also a strong, active community with a wide range of voluntary groups, community activities, arts, sports, services and support, The Hub community library, independent shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and markets.

3 What do you see as the biggest challenges that H&K might face over the next four years?

DB: If the past four years has taught me anything it is that planning across the H&K ward is by far the most time-consuming issue and I can’t imagine that the next four years will be any different. Encouraging conversations between planners, residents, parishes and WBC planning officers gives the best chance to achieve satisfactory outcomes.

DG: Our vital local services. We currently have a viable and vibrant ward. The current cost of living crisis, lack of affordable homes and our ageing population are real challenges. These issues have a much greater impact on rural areas such as ours. We need to ensure homes for our young people, essential transport services and care facilities fit for purpose.

BP: I think the biggest challenge we will face is the ever increasing cost of adult social care.

JSH: Public transport (especially bus services); affordable housing for local people (especially in the smaller villages).

PT: Tackling the cost of living crisis whilst finding the resources we need to invest to meet our climate change commitments. Public services and our key workers need fairer pay and conditions, but there is a limited amount that the council will be able to do about that as it is mostly central government controlled.

TV: Affordability of housing for local people as the rail service to London, Heathrow and Europe improves. Uncertain but changing farming, planning and land management policies. Although the farming and forestry sector is small, it supports a whole ecology of rural businesses. Also energy costs in ‘off grid’ parts of the ward.

TW: Climate change, reducing carbon emissions, cost of living, access to NHS and other essential services.

4 Hungerford is the largest place in the ward and has just over half its population so I’ll give it a question on its own. In ten words or fewer, how would you describe the town?

DB: Proud, successful market town with a strong voice and identity.

DG: Distinct, vibrant community. Feels like a village not a town.

BP: Successful diverse and accepting community.

JSH: A unique town and community in the heart of Berkshire.

PT: Beautiful, historic and thriving town that’s conserved its unique character.

TV: Unique, slightly quirky, culturally rich for its size; well located.

TW: Attractive, rural, friendly, supportive, accessible, historic

5 H&K is geographically the largest ward in West Berkshire and has nine parishes. Were you to attend every full parish council or town council meeting (which is the – often-fulfilled – ambition of the current members) that would be over 60 a year. Important committee meetings, annual town or parish meetings and extraordinary meetings would add many more (with political meetings, site meetings and ward case-work on top). Are you confident you would be able to attend as many of these town and parish meetings as possible?

DB: I hope that my record of attending the parish/town meetings over the past four years has shown my commitment to the ward and I would like to assure residents that I have every intention to carry on attending those meetings if I’m returned on the 4th May.

DG: Yes, I do. I have recently retired. Whilst working full time I have been a Hungerford District Councillor, and during the past 20 years I served on Hungerford Town council several times. I currently am Co-chair of the Hungerford 2036 Neighbourhood steering group and have been the Chair of the Youth and community centre and a governor at John O’Gaunt school.

BP: I would make every effort to continue the great work Dennis, Clare and James have done. If there were a particular issue in a council that required specific focus I would make a concerted effort to go to those meetings. Obviously the ward has three members and there will be times when not all councillors will be able to attend.

JSH: In short, yes.  I would expect to share the workload with my two colleagues to ensure that there is representation at every relevant meeting.

PT: The bar has been set high by Claire, James and Dennis and I will do my best to live up to their standards. As well as being hard working and attending meetings, it’s important to take the time to properly listen to people. I want to build friendly and meaningful relationships with all the parishes and the town council so people feel happy to approach me with their issues.

TV: Being retired, I’m more available than most. I’d expect us to divide the area into three parts and also largely divide workload by subject and service area. Although all three councillors represent everyone and need to cover for one another, it is helpful for constituents to know which of us is best for any particular issue.

TW: I would aim to attend as many as possible and certainly read agendas and minutes and liaise with other ward members on the issues. It would be a new role for me and I’d take advice from colleagues and other ward members on prioritising meetings and case-work. I would, however, enjoy getting to know all of the parishes and their different needs  and initiatives.

6 Assume for a moment you are elected in May and that the three ward members from H&K are from two or three different parties. Are you confident that you would be able to divide up the ward work between you (including attendance at parish or town council meetings as per above) in a way that was apolitical and which worked for the benefit of all residents?

DB: Although people may disagree, which is entirely healthy, I believe that district councillors, whatever political party they represent, share one common, overriding goal – to serve their residents as best they can. Some of the many parish meetings inevitably clash so it’s vital to spread resources.

DG: I am absolutely sure that I could work alongside others to ensure that we achieve the right level of representation for H&K. This is about getting our residents’ view heard at West Berkshire Council. I hope that we all, want that, irrespective of our political persuasion.

BP: Luckily, in my line of work I get to meet people from all different backgrounds and beliefs, so I am certain I can work with people with opposing view and work with them well.

JSH: I can’t speak for other political parties’ representatives, but for my part the answer is “yes”. Whatever the outcome of the election, those elected represent all the ward residents, and I will work with colleagues of any/all political persuasions and none to achieve that to the best of my ability.

PT: Yes: indeed one of the first things I did as a candidate was to open a channel of communication with the opposition. I don’t think people want to see politicians bickering: we should all get on with the job in residents’ best interests and that’s what I intend to do. I don’t know who the Green candidate is yet so if they are reading this, drop me a line and say hello!

TV: Relations between councillors of different parties must, in the best interests of those we represent, be constructive. I have experience of being a member of a multi-party team and if things didn’t work out it would not be for want of my trying to make it work.

TW: I am passionate about collaborative working which I have found to develop the most creative and sustainable initiatives and solutions across disparate groups. I am confident that the other candidates are also passionate about representing the interests of the ward to the best of their ability, especially those who live in the ward.

7 Are there any ways in which you think the relationship between WBC and the town and parish councils (and the communities they represent) in H&K could be improved?

DB: Successful relationships only come about through dialogue and collaborative working. I like to think that over the past four years of my term as H&K ward member I have played my part in helping to foster a good working relationship with Hungerford Town Council and the parishes and the officers of WBC and will continue to build on those ties.

DG: Yes. We used to have area forums and also local councillors’ surgeries, where district and town councillors listening to residents. Both of these show our residents that local matters matter and listening to their concerns and views, so that it is not all about what goes on further east of the district.

BP: I think there is always room for improvement and communication is vital, I will always be contactable either by email, phone or in person and will be happy to help with any issues that may arise. From my experience having lived in and around Hungerford for the last 25 years, WBC has been very supportive of this ward.

JSH: The current administration at WBC lacks transparency and accountability and this needs to change. The re-introduction of area forums is a key commitment that will go a long way to improve the relationship between WBC and the local councils in the ward and I fully support this.

PT: Yes, you can always make improvements and communication is the key. From a parish council perspective, it helps immensely when district councillors are able to attend our meetings. WBC meetings are now often broadcast on YouTube so parish councils and their residents can observe, if they can’t attend in person.

TV: As a strong believer in localism, I trust people to generally know best what their families and communities need. Area forums can usually achieve effective participation by parish councils in joint working. But it takes both sides to manage the inevitable tensions between the district council’s ruling group and local councils.

TW: I have experience in collaborative initiatives, needs-based communications and group-process techniques that can improve relations between disconnected people and groups and I would hope to be able to contribute to relationship building where needed.

8 There is a perception that funding allocation from WBC favours the more urban parts of the district in the east and centre. How would you work with the communities and the towns and parishes in H&K to address this perception?

DB: Sheer weight of numbers means that the more urban areas receive greater funding. Councillors can lobby for budget improvements, including capital investment, in their wards as well as supporting CIL bids and members’ bids for infrastructure projects. This I have done in the past and will continue to do if re-elected.

DG: As a mainly rural area. things like libraries and transport are vital to our residents and when these are removed it has a far great impact on them. We must retain all our current facilities, and make best use of all available funding to improve or create new amenities and infrastructure where possible, encourage investment and support our local businesses.

BP: I think this is just that a perception and that funding is spread fairly across the districts.

JSH: Hungerford Town Council and all the parish councils in the ward are key to this, in my view. By making sure that the voice of the ward, through its most local of representatives, is heard, funding for important and essential infrastructure and community projects from a variety of sources (not just WBC) can be leveraged.

PT: You could say this about all sorts of public policy. As I come from a farming background I have a sympathetic understanding of the challenges faced by rural communities and I’m determined to champion them. The recent Rural Business Forum shows that we are conscious of the issues and determined to address them.

TV: Funding is not everything and WBC is not its only source. I would ensure that H&K gets its fair share of the district’s budget but also urge local councils to use their own precept for things they alone want – often working together in partnership to achieve economies of scale, to involve volunteers and to leverage external resources.

TW: I would check the facts behind the perception, consult with other ward members, communities, towns and parishes in H&K and, if appropriate, develop a case to apply for fair allocation for our ward.

9 The time may come when you find that your obligations to your electorate are in conflict with the interests of your political party. What factors might you consider to decide how you would act?

DB: I would seek a pragmatic resolution to any conflict of interests although, ultimately, my loyalty is to the residents of H&K.

DG: I have lived in Hungerford for 27 years so I am an integral part of this community any conflict would affect me too. My actions would depend on the specific circumstances. Carefully considering the impact the decision or action would have on our ward. But I believe my conscience would prevail and I would put our case and fight H&K’s corner.

BP: To achieve results for residents an excellent working relationship with WBC elected members and officers is essential, I build good working relationships and understand how to get things done.

JSH: I will, of course, judge each situation on its merits: but as I have demonstrated on many occasions before in my 26 years as a councillor in West Berkshire, I put the best interests of the residents I represent ahead of anything else.

PT: My first duty is to the people of the ward. There will inevitably be tensions between local and party-political interests. If I perceived these unacceptably diverged, I would need to step back from the job. One must also distinguish between ‘party politics’ and the conduct of public life in general. When elected members don’t meet the standards expected of them, they should be held to account.

TV: Members owe their electorate, above all, their honest judgement of what is in their best interests. But political parties govern by team working, seeking to carry out their mandate. Also the vocal minority that speaks or writes to them or responds to consultations seldom reflects quite what the silent majority needs.

TW: As a member and representative of the Green Party in a declared climate emergency, I would consider environmental factors and those impacts on the electorate but the role of a councillor is to represent the views of the ward and make decisions in their interests.

10 WBC has declared a climate emergency. What would be the main initiatives you would like to help develop which would bring sustainable and beneficial improvements and which would reduce the carbon emissions of the ward?

DB: Increasing the roll-out of readily-accessible electric vehicle charging points will become increasingly vital. Making the planning process more carbon-reduction-friendly and enabling sustainable development which benefits not only the environment but also the pockets of our residents through cheaper heating costs.

DG: The biggest issue with carbon emissions is not the individual. Planning regulations have not caught up with our climate needs. Developers and social landlords should be required to use new carbon-reducing technology on all new and refurbished developments. However, we all need to act and we should explore all  available options to manage reduction in both homes and businesses.

BP: Considering the deadline of 2030 where no new petrol or diesel cars can be made, I think we should focus our efforts on electric car charging points as currently we don’t have the infrastructure to support such a massive swap to electric cars.

JSH: The installation of accessible EV charging points in public car parks and on-road parking bays; solar panels on domestic and commercial buildings.

PT: We really need to up our game on looking after our environment, in so many ways. One initiative I’d want to pursue is a new generation of social housing. Aside from the human benefits, new homes can now achieve zero-carbon energy status. Residential properties produce around 20% of UK CO2 emissions so this is as good a place as any to start.

TV: There are many ways for all households and councils to save money and the environment. The new local plan offers many opportunities in parts of the ward, including: the Enborne solar farm; micro-hydro on the Kennet river; EV charging hubs in parish and community halls, with dedicated spaces for Car Club EVs; retro-fitting insulation to social housing.

TW: Supporting community initiatives to create resilience and transition to a low-carbon lifestyle alongside climate change mitigation and adaptation. Also, home insulation, renewable energy, active travel and public transport, regenerative farming, tree planting, wild-flower and conservation projects, local food production, environment-conscious building, action against polluters, better sewage and waste management and community information and support.

11 Imagine you have been elected in 2023 and serve your full term. In ten words or fewer, how would you like to be remembered as a H&K ward member when the 2027 election comes around (whether or not you are planning to stand then)?

DB: Approachable, effective and still alive!

DG: Proactive, efficient and caring and championing H&K’s views at WBC.

BP: He works for the benefit of residents and business alike.

JSH: He always worked in the best interests of ward constituents.

PT: Dedicated, caring and effective.

TV: Hard working, honest, approachable and effective: helping improve many lives.

TW: Collaborative, achieved community successes re Q10 – and completed her casework.

12 Finally, imagine this is Desert Island Discs. What would be your must-have song, your book and your luxury item?

DB: Song: Ain’t No Man by Dina Carroll. Book: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. Luxury item: a saxophone; I’ve always fancied playing one and, as a castaway, there would be nobody to annoy when I practised.

DG: Song: Anything by Shania Twain. Book: Paradise Lost by John Milton. Luxury item: Manual sewing machine and material – have never learn to sew (which I am disappointed about) – I am left-handed so all sewing, knitting and crochet is a mystery to me (that’s my excuse, anyway).

BP: SongForever After All by Luke Combs. Book: The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Luxury item: My parrot Mango, so I would look the part on the desert island. She’s also very good company.

JSH: Song: Supper’s Ready by Genesis. Book: The Lord of the Rings by JRR TolkienLuxury item: an exercise bike. I have one at home that is unused, so being stuck on a desert island will give me the time I need to actually use it.

PT: Song: Best of by Radiohead [you’re going to to have to pick just one song from the album – Ed] . Book: Complete works of Shakespeare. Luxury item: paper and pencil to design the instruments of my survival and escape.

TV: Song: Imagine by John Lennon. Book: On Gallows Down by Nicola Chester. Luxury item: Everything I need for a long walk in all weathers: I want to keep fit.

TW: Song: People have the Power by Patti Smith. Book: The Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow. Luxury item: a comfortable hammock.

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