Can you tell me a bit about your background in the Co-operative movement?
Growing up in the Rhymney Valley in South Wales, co-ops were part of the economic and political landscape and were passed down to me as part of my cultural heritage. My family are from Rhymney and my grandfather was a miner. My mum’s generation were fiercely Labour and all belonged to co-operatives.
Even now, as industry has left the area, co-operatives still spring up and endure. When local employer Budelpack pulled out of Rhymney after a factory fire in 2005; employees used their redundancies to buy the business and now operate a successful co-operative, Primepac, in Ebbw Vale.
How have co-operative values and principles influenced your politics?
I was incredibly lucky to have been invited to be part of the group who put together the Monmouthshire Labour manifesto for 2017. As a result, I was able to put forward many of the policies voiced in the Co-operative Vision for Wales.
Where the current LibDem and Conservative Coalition in Monmouthshire have attempted to outsource in order to cut costs and have introduced zero hours contracts into our own council, we are proposing going beyond community involvement in services to community ownership. I’d also like to see a lot more start up help for local community owned businesses; co-operatives tend to be risk conscious and offer more stable business models to those involved – which is key to long term business survival.
How do you think co-op models can help enhance your area?
In Monmouthshire, we have the highest level of loneliness in Wales. Co-operative models engage communities and get them working together. Communities gain a great amount of empowerment and cohesion through co-operatives, something which can only benefit us here in Monmouthshire. Credit Unions like Torfaen and Monmouthshire’s Gateway Credit Union really help communities with financial stability. I also think we can learn a lot from the success of Taf Fechan Housing Co-op in Merthyr.
What are your priorities for your area?
My favourite pledge is to support and promote access to co-operative housing and community led developments in my area. The Co-operative Party housing campaign, ‘Homes with Heart’, is key to us in Monmouthshire. In Sudbrook, we have a private development of 190 houses which has caused immense disruption to the small local community and the level of affordable homes for the local community could still be higher.
The Welsh government has a target of 20 000 new affordable homes in this term. Some of those homes need to be in Monmouthshire and I would like to see them achieved through a mutual model.
As a Labour group, we have pledged to work to protect the community’s front line services, improve and coordinate public transport and tackle loneliness in the community. Our final two pledges are very important to me; they are pledges to improve roads and pavements and to work to support our schools, children and teachers. I have been a wheelchair user in the past due to disability and I have had go through the process of regaining my mobility.
Accessible pavements which are even and safe to walk on are incredibly important for anyone with mobility issues and this needs improving in Monmouthshire. I also have three young boys. The schools in our area are oversubscribed and my 6 and 9 year old have a 10 mile round commute to school. As we significant housing developments locally, residents in Portskewett and Sudbrook are worried about the increased demand on local schools and other services.
Meanwhile, education in Monmouthshire has spent several years in Special Measures under the Lib Dems and Conservatives. Estyn stated at the time that the education service provided insufficient value for money: locally, the current council isn’t delivering despite the relative affluence of the area.
Finally, why do you want to be the local councillor for Portskewett and how can Co-operative members help get you elected?
I love the area and the people here. I want to work with the community to make sure it isn’t left behind. We need a strong councillor who will put the local community first and I can deliver that. I genuinely believe in Co-operative and Labour values and I want to share those with the area.
I am campaigning almost constantly at the moment and I am the only Labour-Co-operative candidate in Monmouthshire. If members would like to help, from phone banking to knocking doors, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also on Twitter @RC_Garrick