Sharon Taylor for Symonds Green
Labour and Cooperative party candidate for Symonds Green Ward, Stevenage
Stevenage is my home town. My parents moved here in 1954 and my sisters and I have grown up both in and with the town. I am incredibly proud of our history of being Britain’s first post war new town, and being elected to represent Stevenage is a huge honour and privilege.
I was educated at Roebuck and Campshill primary schools and then at the Girls Grammar School in Stevenage. I then went to work in France for a short while and when I returned, took my professional secretary’s exams and worked for what is now MBDA as a bilingual secretary. After having my family, I returned to work with the John Lewis Partnership and subsequently went on to work for Hertfordshire Constabulary, where I became the Staff Officer to the Chief Constable for 13 years, managing the team of people, both police and support staff that were supporting the chief police officers in Hertfordshire.
I studied for my degree at our local University of Hertfordshire as a part-time mature student and was incredibly proud to complete this while also working full time and as a mum with three young children.
My first election to Stevenage Council was in Symonds Green in 1997 and I was first elected to the County Council in 2008 for Bedwell division.
I moved to Symonds Green in 1975 and still consider it to be my home ward (in spite of the boundary commission moving the border to the road outside my front door!) It has been my great privilege to serve Symonds Green as a councillor since 1997.
Standing up for my ward and the people who live and work there is a vitally important part of my life. I have been proud to support the development and transformation of our community centre; the delivery of new Council housing in the ward for the first time in decades; taking part in community projects like the clearing of Symonds Green pond; the Labour Action Team work that we did in Meadway (when we literally removed everything including a kitchen sink); initiating new play equipment for Bude Crescent and Scarborough Avenue; and getting involved with the wonderful Mondrian and ‘Moment in Time’ projects at Woolenwick School have been real highlights.
One of the most valuable parts of my life as a councillor is the individual casework I undertake. I usually deal with hundreds of cases a year on issues ranging from planning and environmental matters, anti-social behaviour, housing repairs, advocacy and also dealing with extremely urgent cases of homelessness, domestic abuse and extreme hardship. This one-to-one contact with our constituents is both rewarding and sometimes challenging but I believe as a Labour councillor in Stevenage our casework embodies our compassion and values.
I believe all councillors should be campaigners. I love all forms of campaigning, whether it is getting out there on the doorsteps listening to our residents in Symonds Green, or starting and supporting campaigns on local key issues like holiday hunger, street lighting and local bus services.
I have been very proud to serve as Leader of the Council since 2006. It has been the greatest privilege to be part of the amazing Labour team at the heart of our Town Centre Regeneration project, our Council housing development programme and to begin the transformation of our local areas under the ‘Co-op Neighbourhoods’ programme. Working together, our Labour council has achieved so much in Stevenage…but there is much work to do to carry on this exciting transformation.
I believe Stevenage has a bright and exciting future as our town emerges from Covid. These were difficult months, but as a community we worked together and really delivered, providing food and support for the vulnerable, housing rough sleepers, supporting businesses with the grants they needed to keep going, delivering essential services (and our model of direct service delivery rather than contracted out services really came into its own here), keeping our town centre and High Street safe, and implementing the check and trace system which had not worked when government tried to do it.
Even in such dark times there were silver linings: the community spirit, the way people rediscovered our local area, especially our parks, woodlands and cycle ways and a greater focus on health, wellbeing and prevention. Fundamentally, people want to have the hope that things will get better and we now need to build on those foundations. The great challenges we face of creating a socially just and more equal economy as we face the challenges that Covid has left us, tackling inequalities and the global challenge of climate change must inform all we do as our town builds back.
Whether I am at my surgery in Symonds Green…in the Council chamber at Stevenage…at Herts Growth Board ensuring that our Stevenage economy is a top priority…or meeting with Ministers to lobby for more funding, the people of Stevenage are always in my head and in my heart. I would really love the opportunity to continue to serve you.