The first WEP Councillor
Kay was the first Women’s Equality Party Councillor in the country when she was elected to Congleton in 2019.
Kay is an entrepreneur and local employer, choosing Congleton as the headquarters for her award-winning international digital business, Kanga Health Ltd. Since becoming a Councillor, Kay has handed over the day-to-day running of the business to the management team, and now focuses on serving the community full-time.
Kay has been working hard for Congleton since her election in 2019 and has had a real impact on the lives of many people, especially the most vulnerable. Read on for more information, or check out Kay’s Blog for her bi-monthly updates of her work.
Here is Kay’s message to you, and below it you will find some of Kay’s achievements as a Congleton Town Councillor.
KAY’S LETTER TO THE RESIDENTS OF CONGLETON
I want to say ‘thank you’ to the people of Congleton who have supported me, and their town, in my first tenure as a Town Councillor since 2019. It has been a steep learning curve, but very rewarding, and I’ve been inspired by the incredible community spirit of the people of Congleton.
I never considered myself to be a politician; like lots of people I had political views and shouted at ‘Question Time’, but never thought I would stand for local government. I’m ashamed to say that I was quite cynical and thought, as many do, that ‘they are all the same’ and one person couldn’t make much difference.
Also like a lot of people, I have been angry for a long time about the injustices in our country, the fact that some people have less freedom, safety, opportunity, just because of a characteristic they have such as being female, LGBT+, disabled, elderly, a single parent, on a low income…
As a woman I have experienced discrimination of course. At work: the technology job I didn’t get because ‘you won’t fit in the (all-male) team’, the colleague who touched my bum, the boss who talked to my breasts, the manager who told me I was ‘too emotional’ to become a leader. And in life: the catcalls in the street, misogynist trolling on Twitter, the waiter giving the bill I asked for to my male companion, being told I’m ‘lucky’ to have a husband who cooks and parents his own children…the list goes on.
And I know that these things are small compared to what some women face. The epidemic of violence against women and girls in this country is shocking. Rape is practically decriminalised with a conviction rate of less than 1%. Two women a week are killed by a current or former partner. In Congleton we have an incident of domestic abuse reported every day, on average.
The World Economic Forum Gender Gap report 2022 said that a girl born in the UK today has 22% fewer life chances than a boy (based on representation, economic opportunity, education and health), just because she is a girl.
Successive governments have had gender equality and other equalities on their list of things-to-do, but these things always seem close to the bottom of the list and get deprioritised, even though the ‘business case’ for equality has been proven again and again. If you’re diminishing opportunities for half the population, how can your country compete on the world stage?
So when in 2015, Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer said ‘enough is enough’, and launched a party that put gender equality at the top instead of the bottom of the agenda, I and thousands of other women (and some men) around the country shouted ‘At last!’ and joined up. The Women’s Equality Party was born.
We are a bipartisan force and will work with anyone from any other party to get the right things done. We have had huge influence on the national stage, including shining a light on misogyny in the police, bringing violence against women and girls to the top of the political agenda, driving the move to a women’s health strategy, starting the ‘end sexism in schools’ project to balance the curriculum (did you know that 99% of plays studied for GCSE are written by men?) and starting the campaign to allow home-use of early abortion pills, which is now standard practice.
The reason national politicians listen to WEP is because we are a political force of some scale, even though we don’t yet have an MP.
Congleton made history in 2019 by voting me in as the first WEP Councillor, and many people I spoke to in town – women and men – said ‘about time’.
In the four years since, I have worked with colleagues to, among other things: launch a domestic abuse clinic to Congleton so that victims don’t have to travel to Crewe or Macclesfield (DA arrests have doubled in Congleton); get White Ribbon Accreditation (engaging men to challenge male violence); declare a Climate Emergency (‘gender equality’ is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals); campaign for a new Congleton tip; support the natural environment and trees in planning decisions; lobby for better bus services and cycle/walking provision; support the community during COVID; work with Congleton Pride to help Congleton become more LGBTQIA+ inclusive; engage with Cheshire Police to challenge hate crime and make our streets safer; co-ordinate response to the cost-of-living crisis; create a new Council Equality and Inclusion Policy.
As a result of my work, all our Council decisions are now tested for Equality and Environmental Impact as well as Financial.
There is only one of me, and I have proved myself wrong – one person can make a difference, if we work together with others. And, it turns out, ‘equality’ is not a controversial thing at all. Thank you to those of my Council colleagues who have raised their hands in support of it.
This year we hope to double our efforts with an additional Women’s Equality Party Councillor. The brilliant and formidable Susan Mead is standing for Congleton Northeast. Please vote for Susan on 4th May!
Congleton is a lovely town, a beautiful ‘In Bloom’ town (and I’ve done my bit on the town tidies and tree-planting), a town of clubs, activities, playgrounds, music, art and night life. The Council supports all these things, but in my view local government should go further, and reach out to the whole community.
I now have a successful international digital business in Congleton (my old boss got it quite wrong!) and I live in a nice house in Mossley, but I remember living in a bedsit and not having enough to feed the meter. Luckily at that time I was single and could go and visit friends or to a café/pub all afternoon/evening to keep warm.
There are many families in Congleton now who don’t have this option and are feeling the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis. There are also many people who are afraid to go out at night (or stay in with their partner), are isolated at home, have no transport, opportunity, access to services. Congleton needs to work for everyone, and as a Councillor I am determined to make it do so.
At Cheshire East, I will have the opportunity to address some of the most serious issues we face. The crisis in social care, the appalling lack of affordable childcare (which keeps families out of work and in poverty), the lack of an integrated transport policy with crumbling roads, inconsistent parking charges and no realistic bus services, and an environmental strategy that needs acceleration, including a new household waste and recycling site in Congleton.
I hope you will give me the opportunity to continue my work, in the Town Council and Cheshire East, by voting for me on May 4th. Thank you.
KAY’S WORK AS A TOWN COUNCILLOR INCLUDES:
MAKING CONGLETON SAFER
Action on Domestic Abuse
Did you know that there is an incident of DA reported to the police every day in Congleton, on average?Kay ensured that domestic abuse statistics are reported regularly in Council meetings. She also worked with myCWA to set up a Domestic Abuse Clinic and peer Support Group in Congleton. Domestic abuse arrest rates have doubled in Congleton and survivors can now access the support they need to build their lives back
Kay led the effort to get Congleton Town Council White Ribbon Accredited. White Ribbon is a charity that engages men to challenge behaviours that lead to violence. There are now 11 White Ribbon Ambassadors in Congleton who work with schools, clubs and businesses. As a result, for the first time, men have come to the DA clinic to say they are concerned about their own behaviour.
Kay led the work for Congleton Town Council to sign up to the Community Safety Charter which is designed to make people feel safer in public places.
This includes resources to build awareness and skills to challenge street harassment and other behaviours which can lead to violent crime.
Kay also worked Cheshire Police to make the Congleton Pride team a hate crime Reporting Centre so that people have someone to help them if they experience hate crime.
Kay has worked with NHS leaders to get assurances that the War Memorial Hospital Minor Injuries unit is not permanently closed and to lobby for an adult mental health hub and additional medical facilities in Congleton. She has also supported Ruby’s Fund and Visyon, the young people’s mental health charity.
If elected to Cheshire East Council, Kay will have more opportunities to fight for improved health services in our town.
Policy and Action
Kay developed a new Equality and Inclusion Policy for Congleton Town Council. This policy ensures the Council ‘goes the extra mile’ to ensure everyone is included in its decisions, projects and services. In addition to the standard legal attributes (such as age, sex, race, LGBT+…) the policy covers people on low incomes and those in care or with caring responsibilities. Every Council decision is now tested for equality impact. Kay has also worked with the Bromley Farm Hub team to provide support, activities and opportunities for local people
Kay has worked with Childcare providers and parents to identify significant gaps in provision in Congleton. She has also joined national and local campaigns to improve provision.
Kay wants to get into Cheshire East Council in order to develop a childcare strategy and ensure that all parents have the opportunity to work and provide for their families.
Kay used her experience in digital business to help the Council create a hybrid meetings capability, so that members of the public or others who cannot travel to the Town Hall can access meetings remotely.
The Council has not yet voted to make this facility available for all meetings.
If Kay is re-elected she will push to make this happen.
Employer of the Year
Kay’s business, Kanga Health Ltd, has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Employer of the Year category of the East Cheshire Chamber of Commerce business awards. This is for the employer who commits to providing a first-class working environment, including diversity and inclusion, employee development, an ethical culture and community support.
CONGLETON’S SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Kay proposed that Congleton Town Council declare a Climate Emergency and since then has been working hard as a member of the Green Group to reduce carbon emissions and increase biodiversity.
Kay has consistently opposed development on green spaces or the loss of trees in planning decisions, and forced a developer to replace trees it had destroyed at Quarry Close.
Kay has volunteered with the ‘Trees for Congleton’ Group, including helping them with online consultations and planting trees.
Kay has also monitored air quality outside schools, run a stall at the Green Fayre, supported the Congleton Sustainability Group and the Repair Cafe, as well as other groups and charities who are working on the green agenda in Congleton.
Support for Residents
Kay was a leader in the effort to get the Sustainable Living in Congleton eLearning course online for all residents to use.
Kay has also written copy and sourced resources for Green sections of the Congleton Town Council website for residents and businesses, and work with the Green communications team that shares the ‘green days’ and months with residents throughout the year.
Kay has taken developers to task for failing to provide adequate buses, walking and cycling provision for new housing.
Kay produced a Bus Improvements Plan for Congleton and lobbied CEC to bid for Congleton to become a new Electric Bus Town (they didn’t).
As a member of Cheshire East Council Kay will push for an integrated transport strategy with a focus on improving pubic transport.
This is just a small selection of Kay’s work as Town Councillor. Give her the opportunity to continue and do even more in Cheshire East Council: PLEASE VOTE FOR EQUALITY ON 4TH MAY!
Kay was recognised as a ‘Disruptor for Good’ in the Northern Power Women awards 2022. She was also chosen as the only person from Congleton included in the Cheshire Life Platinum Jubilee 70, an award for local people who have made a significant contribution to their community, in honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.