Who is the Women’s Equality Party?
When women thrive, everyone benefits. The Women’s Equality Party was started in 2015 by Sandi Toksvig and Catherine Mayer to challenge systematic discrimination and prejudice in the UK. WEP’s seven core objectives are equality in work, health, the media, representation, education, pay, parenting and caregiving, and to end violence against women and girls. In 2020 WEP voted to mainstream the Climate Emergency as a core component of all seven policy areas, and adopted the model of Doughnut Economics, which balances the needs of the planet and people with those of financial growth.
You can read more about Why WE Exist here.
Our Cheshire East WEP Branch has been very active in challenging inequalities locally, and in 2019 Kay Wesley was elected to the Congleton Town Council as the first Women’s Equality Party Councillor in the United Kingdom. Since then other councillors who are WEP members have been elected elsewhere in the country. If you’d like to get involved in WEP Cheshire East you can sign up here.
About Kay and her work as a Councillor in Congleton
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.
Tackling Crime – Safer Congleton
Domestic and Sexual Violence
Did you know that we have one incident of domestic abuse reported to the Police every day on average in Congleton and one of sexual violence every week?
Kay has ensured that:
- These figures get reported regularly in public meetings, so that these crimes have ‘come out from behind closed doors’.
- There is a new Domestic Abuse Clinic in Congleton, which supports survivors every week and runs a peer support group once a month. (Kay secured funding for this)
As a result , due to improved local victim support and the public discourse, domestic abuse arrests in Congleton have doubled in the past year. As a result Kay was co-opted as a Board member for the Cheshire East Domestic & Sexual Abuse Partnership (CEDSAP).
‘Kay Wesley has done more to combat domestic abuse in Congleton in 30 months as a Councillor than Congleton Town Council did for the previous 30 years’ White Ribbon Ambassador
Prevention is Better than Cure – White Ribbon Campaign
Kay led the work to get White Ribbon Accreditation for Congleton Town Council in 2020. White Ribbon is a charity that engages men to tackle domestic abuse and sexual violence. Congleton now has 11 White Ribbon Ambassadors who have been working with the community, especially local schools, to spread the word about causes of domestic and gender-based violence. Kay’s Congleton-based business is also a White Ribbon organisation.
In one year, the domestic abuse clinic received visits from six perpetrators who were concerned about their own behaviour and seeking support to change it – the clinic providers said they had never seen this before and think it is due to the White Ribbon Campaign.
As Chair of the Antisocial Behaviour Working Group, Kay led the effort to sign up Congleton Town Council to the Community Safety Charter, helping us work with partners to tackle hate crime, harassment and other behaviours that can lead to people feeling unsafe on the streets.
Challenging Hate Crime
Kay worked with Cheshire Police to make the Congleton Pride team a hate crime Reporting Centre so that people have someone to go to if they experience this and are reluctant to call the Police directly.
Supporting the Community – Fairer Congleton
Inclusion for all
Kay wrote the Council’s new Equality and Inclusion Policy, and every Council decision and project is now checked not just for financial impact but also environmental and equality impact.
Kay used her digital expertise to help lead the effort to install hybrid meeting technology in the Town Hall so that the public can observe Council meetings remotely, opening up our democracy to those who are unable to travel to the Town Hall due to illness/disability, caring responsibilities, or lack of transport.
Kay is as a member of the Cheshire Police External Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (EDEI) Board.
Support for the Vulnerable
Kay worked with charities and groups across Congleton to provide support during the COVID crisis, including having the idea of providing a Christmas Present to people isolated at home in 2020.
Kay has volunteered at vaccine clinics, developed the COVID website and Facebook Group, and is now helping co-ordinate similar support for residents during the cost-of-living crisis, including helping set up Warm Spaces for those who want to save on home heating costs and supporting the Christmas Santa charity collection.
As part of the Health and Wellbeing Group Kay has lobbied the NHS to provide one of the new Mental Health Hubs in Congleton
Kay used her management experience to help with the new Council Employer Handbook, embedding flexible working into the standards for Council employees, and to lead a Council decision to join the national campaign lobbying government to provide councillors with childcare. This will support more parents and those on low incomes to stand for local councils.
As a Congleton Pride Trustee, Kay has been a leader in work with both local churches and the Police to improve understanding and community cohesion, and has to helped engage the community with the great work that the Pride team is doing to create a more welcoming Congleton, including the Congleton Pride annual event.
History and Heritage
‘If you can see it, you can be it’ and the fact that women are often forgotten in our history has an impact on girls and women today. Kay was on the team that got the statue of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy erected in the town centre. Its unveiling was one of the big events of 2022 and got BBC News Coverage.
In addition, Kay has helped remember 4 other women from Congleton’s history by getting new local roads named after them.
Kay is a trustee of Congleton Museum and used her business skills to help develop a new strategy and roadmap for the Museum. This included an exciting new ‘digitisation’ project that Kay is leading, to bring exciting new experiences that will help more people access the Museum’s collections – both into the building and remotely.
Sustainable Development – Greener Congleton
Supporting the Natural Environment
In September 2019, Kay brought the proposal to Congleton Town Council that it should declare a Climate Emergency, which it approved, and she helped set up the working group that aims for carbon neutrality, waste reduction and improvements to biodiversity.
Kay has stood up for Congleton’s green spaces and natural habitats, consistently opposing development in these places in Planning meetings, as well as objecting to the unwarranted felling of trees.
Kay ensured a local developer replanted trees to replace ones it had destroyed in Quarry Close, Congleton.
Kay has volunteered with the ‘Trees for Congleton’ group, which is halfway to its target of planting 30,000 trees by 2025.
Tools for Change
As a member of the Green Working Group, Kay was a lead in the project to deliver the ‘Sustainable Living in Congleton’ eLearning module for our residents. Covering Energy, Food, Waste and Travel, this is completely free, and you can complete it at http://www.learn.congleton-tc.gov.uk.
In addition, Kay developed the Green Council, Green Living and Green Business sections of the Council website – packed with useful information and resources.
Campaigning for a new Tip
Kay joined Council colleagues to campaign for a replacement Household Waste and Recycling Centre in Congleton. Kay spoke at several Cheshire East Council meetings, including the one at which the decision was taken at last to review provision in Congleton.
Kay is in the Integrated Transport working Group and has led the lobby for better public transport in Congleton. She wrote a Congleton Bus Improvements document that was submitted to Cheshire East Council as input to the local travel plan. Many of its recommendations are now in the Plan.
In Planning Committee, Kay has been a vocal critic of new house developers who have not considered active and sustainable transport options as part of their Travel Plans.
Kay monitored air-quality as part of a project that demonstrated we need improvements to transport in our town, especially next to our schools.
‘Congleton is the only town in Cheshire East that has provided such detailed input into the requirements for improved public transport’ CEC Transport Officer
Town Centre Vitality and Neighbourhood Plans
Kay has been a member of the team scrutinising these plans for the future of Congleton. Her focus has been on revitalising our local economy, reclaiming our town centre for people instead of cars, ensuring we maintain biodiversity and protect green spaces, protecting our heritage and making sure our town is accessible and welcoming for all.
Kay was recognised as a ‘Disruptor for Good’ in the Northern Power Women awards 2022.
Also in 2022 Kay was chosen as a ‘Cheshire Platinum Champion’ – the only Congleton person included in 70 Cheshire residents awarded this accolade as part of the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
Susan Mead – your new WEP Candidate on 4th May 2023
Susie Mead is a local community leader who works tirelessly for families in our town. She has built a successful childcare business, Friendly Faces Day Nursery, building a team, managing tight budgets in a challenging environment and having overall responsibility for compliance and safeguarding.
As a result, Susie has a deep understanding of the needs of local families and those on low incomes.
As well as working with the young, Susie has experience in social care working with the elderly and is well aware of the pressures and needs in that sector.
Susie is standing as a Town Councillor for the first time in May 2023 because she is always looking for new ways to serve her local community.
Susie runs a peer support group for parents on Bromley Farm. She has also set up a Special Educational Needs Hub, Bromley Hub ‘Stay and Play’ Group and supported many new mothers as a breastfeeding councillor.
Susie is a national campaigner for better childcare provision. She was an invited speaker at the March of the Mummies in Manchester and has appeared on Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live to discuss childcare challenges. Susie represents Congleton and Cheshire on Early Years Equality which campaigns for total reform of the childcare sector, recognising childcare as key infrastructure to support the economy.
Supporting the Community
Susie won the Cheshire East Coronavirus Local Heroes Award for supporting vulnerable people in the community during lockdown. More recently she has set up the Bromley Farm Community Hub, a constituted group which is developing a wide variety of activities and support for local residents.
Improving the Environment
Susie leads the Bromley Bloomers, a team of residents who plant food and flowers in Bromley Farm. This creates a sense of community and wellbeing, as well as enabling people to grow free food to eat.
Susie is a campaigner for sustainability and her Nursery has won numerous environmental awards including an Eco Green Flag and Plastic Free Status.
Tell us what you think
Kay is standing for Cheshire East Borough and Congleton Town Council. Susie is standing for Congleton Town Council. Please let us know what you would like from your Town and Borough Councils, or get in touch if you would like a chat about the future of Congleton.
Phone: Kay: 07711 459740 Susie: 07875 542974
Twitter: @WEPCheshireEast @KayWesley
The Women’s Equality Party was established in 2015 to highlight and dismantle obstacles to gender equality in the UK: a political and economic architecture rigged against women and diversity, an education system riven with unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, a media that reinforces these stereotypes, a society that assigns little value to caregiving and therefore assumes it to be women’s business, that underpays women and invests less in women’s health and permits endemic harassment and violence against women.
The blog posts on this website are personal views and experiences and we are not speaking on behalf of the Council. We give credit where due to colleagues.
Kay is part of the following Congleton Town Council Groups and Committees, and her meeting attendance at all Council and other groups has been 95%.
Here are some local community organisations I’m also part of and provide a Town Council link to:
Congleton Cares/Cost-of-Living Support
CHOC Young Person and Children’s Mental Health Group