Helen Skinner Labour & Co-op Broxtowe Borough Councillor 20th September 2021 Blog Local Government Share Tweet Broxtowe sits on the frontier of the infamous Red Wall. Always a swing seat, we have often mirrored the national picture – meaning we’ve been battling against Tory incumbents now for over a decade. In 2019 their majority rocketed from 863 to over 5,000. Although this margin by no means places our hopes of retaking Broxtowe in the realms of fantasy, we did see a huge breakdown in areas where we took voters’ support as given, and we had to identify new ways of reconnecting with the electorate. We opened our Community Hub on the high street in early 2019 as a base for meetings and campaigns. It functioned well as a venue for a year or so – always with a focus on bringing the community to us – but, when the pandemic hit, it quickly transformed into a full-time foodbank: in total delivering 2,500 parcels, feeding around 10,000 people. Although still run by our members, earlier this year our foodbank operation relocated and registered as a separate charity in order to effectively continue its good work. This initiative, albeit in a time of crisis, provided a realisation of the scale to which we could mobilise members and go out into the community instead of waiting for them to come to us. We resolved to maintain this momentum, diversify our focus, and begin to make lasting links with the Broxtowe community. Among other projects, our main success has been a partnership between ourselves and a local football club, Phoenix, that had started delivering food parcels to vulnerable people in their area. After a few months of cooperation, two of our members became trustees and we are now in the process of turning the space into a fully functioning community centre. Based in a pavilion in the heart of one of Broxtowe’s most deprived areas, it is perfectly positioned to provide activities that focus on crime prevention, extracurricular education, intergenerational mixing, and community cohesion. Our ambitions however do not stop here. We have recently hired a full time organiser to pursue other opportunities by which we can embed ourselves in communities. Moving forward, we have plans of opening a community kitchen, establishing a community bus service, and undertaking effective campaigns of social value such as making Broxtowe a Real Living Wage accredited borough and encouraging the council to adopt the Modern Slavery Charter. Our current approach paid dividends in May’s elections: nearly all our candidates boosted their vote share; we held every seat we had before the election; and we were the only constituency in the county to gain a county councillor. We intend to build on these successes by further developing our model, taking in all elements of the labour movement and engaging the electorate in the most effective ways possible. With the days of allegiance voting seemingly behind us for good, and given the consistent widening of the gap between elected and elector over the last three decades, our answer in Broxtowe is to ensure that we head out and become a constituent part of the community we aim to represent.