Transcript of video interview: Cllr Simon Bennett, City of Wolverhampton Council

Transcript of Be a councillor video interview with Cllr Simon Bennett, Merry Hill Ward, City of Wolverhampton Council

So I'm Councillor Simon Bennett and I represent Merry Hill Ward in Wolverhampton.

So, throughout my working life I’d always been in roles where it was about helping people. So I’ve been a youth worker for over 10 years, I currently work in IT, so I help people with their daily IT issues. I’ve been a football coach as well in my younger days, so it’s all about helping people and improving their lives. So this was just seen as naturally the next thing where I could make a real impact on people’s lives.

What inspired you to become a councillor?

I’ve always been interested in politics, and in 2015, I was approached by one of my good friends, who I’ve played cricket with for many years, who was a councillor in Wolverhampton as well, and he’d identified that I’ve got similar views and identified similar issues in the city, so he asked me to get involved with him and his campaign. So I did that and then a year later I was asked to stand in the local election in 2016, where I was unsuccessful, and then in 2018 I re-stood again and successfully was elected this time round.

What work is involved day to day?

As a Councillor there’s many ways that you can make a difference to people’s lives; that could be simple things like getting a road re-laid, getting a bin installed somewhere, and more complex issues like rehousing people, working with Wolverhampton Homes, with people in some really difficult situations. So it’s been really good to be able to help those people move into new properties, or get that new bus stop installed, or get that tree pruned, or whatever it might be that local residents really want to see, or they asked for.

But to them that means a lot if you can get that sorted, and quite often, being a local councillor, being a local representative gives you that extra bit of clout with the local authority to be able to sort these problems for people where it might take a couple of weeks in normal circumstances. Whereas if you get involved, you might be able to make that change and turn that around pretty quickly for that local resident.

I think it’s a lot different that I expected to be, and that’s in a good way. It can be hard at times, difficult, some of the particular cases, to deal with, but, you know, the experiences you’re able to have, and it’s not just the side where you’re working with residents on issues, there’s the other side of it, which is the council side, which is working as a group of 60 councillors to hopefully try and make the city a better place, and a better place for residents, so the legislative side of that.

It’s really important for residents to have somebody they can go to, that’s a local voice, that knows the local area and really make that change. Like I say, if they’re disillusioned with the governance of the city, they can come to their local councillor, and their local councillor can have a positive effect on how we can change things.

What advice would you give?

I mean, I would just really encourage anybody that has never thought about it, you don’t have to be particularly political. In Wolverhampton it is dominated by two political parties, but there has been independent councillors in the past, and other party councillors, so just find the party that aligns to your views the closest, or if not, stand as an independent.

So if you really want to hit the ground running and become a local councillor, if you get involved with a local party, all the training, all the support is there for you to be able to become an effective councillor, not just on the political side, but on the side for the residents as well – that support is there for people.

I’m incredibly proud of being a councillor, it’s representing the city that I was born and bred in. It provides some really unique opportunities to represent my local authority, and whilst the city is in a difficult position in the moment, I’m incredibly proud to go to events, and wear my city pin badge with pride.