With less than a week to go until local elections in England, the Party's Youth Development Officer Caitlin Prowle caught up with one of the Party's younger 545 candidates, to find out more about his aspirations for the area, and the role of co-operative ideas in his politics.

In what ways do you think Co-op models and ideas could help your area?

I had the pleasure of discussing Local Government policy with Co-operative MP Jim McMahon, who is also former leader of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council. It was his advice that councils should ‘work with communities, not do things to communities’, that really brought home to me what a co-operative model can achieve.

At times, we are guilty of having a top-down approach to government. In 2018, with £50m+ cuts from central government about to hit Reading Borough Council, we really need community engagement.

During my campaign launch in November, I spoke to several people who found themselves living in fuel poverty, and so I would love to see a community energy co-op created for Reading. Not only do I believe we can achieve an affordable energy supplier for those in our community in need, it would supply revenue source to invest back into Reading.

I also want to see our local area embrace the idea of supporter-owned sports teams. Park ward currently hosts our athletics and velodrome stadium (Palmer Park Stadium). With English football becoming less and less accessible for those on medium to low incomes, I believe we could create something special at grassroots that would drive more people towards Park Ward and boost the economy.

What are your pledges for your area?

I’m standing on 5 key pledges at this election: delivering a new local swimming pool, tackling pollution, working to reduce fly-tipping locally, engaging and promoting our local business economy, and making our community safer.

I’m also keen though from my view as a Co-operative Party member, to create engaging campaigns. We have some fantastic local credit unions that really serve our community. I  hope we can help those in need to steer clear of credit shark companies and high-interest loans. Park Ward also has a thriving local business community, and we as a council need to support our local economies through engagement and consumer input.

How has being a young candidate effected your campaign?

A times I’ve been met with the old, ‘you’re far too young to be a candidate’ line. I don’t believe this is malicious, I just think people are genuinely surprised when young people want to change their community. Being young has also had real positives. Park ward has a large student community due to its proximity to Reading University and I’ve had a really positive response from the local students, many are greatly enthused by what they see as a dynamic shift in politics. I’ve even had one or two come out to lend a hand, which is fantastic.

Finally, why do you want to be a councillor?

Although I’m standing to be a councillor in Reading, I was born and raised in Scotland. I lived in the area covered by Inverclyde Council, and Greenock, where I was born was the subject of a Ken Loach film ‘Sweet Sixteen’ which showed some of the real social problems we had at that time (2002). Inverclyde was dubbed the ‘heroin capital of the UK’ something the town was understandably ashamed of.

What I’m proud of though, is what Labour achieved locally. Today the area has undergone serious levels of regeneration and the heroin problem has been drastically reduced. This was due to positive investment and tackling the causes of poverty and addiction locally, along with investment in education and recreational facilities that kept kids away from the drug barons and on a path to success.

I was lucky in a sense that my father served in that Council during that period. I was able to see that local government can make a real change to people’s lives. Now I want to do the same for Reading. It’s 2018 and we need new ideas. We have high levels of poverty; food bank dependency is on the rise and we as a council are struggling to continue to deliver a high level of public services. I truly believe a Co-operative council can deliver effectively for Reading.