Ashmole Primary School and the Campaign for a New School

I visited Ashmole Primary School today for a meeting on the permanent school building and it bought home to me the enormity of what has been achieved by dedicated members of the Ashmole team, my campaigner group and me!
Ground breaking with children1
Ashmole Primary School’s permanent building is a building site but by the end of this year it will be ready for children to move in. When I started this campaign I never believed that I would be part of the team that founded a brand new school! The road I traveled to get to this point has been full of challenges, of highs and lows but perseverance, determination and a stubborn resolution to have a new school made me carry on. There is one real reward that I have from this campaign and that was the hug from a crying mum on the opening day of the school. Her tears were of happiness, telling me that I had changed her, and her family’s life! I will never forget that moment and as I write this I am moved again.
The campaign started in 2012 from my front room. A group of community minded parents and grandparents who lived in an area that didn’t fall into any primary school catchment area decided to campaign for increased primary school provision. We each paid £10 to produce 2000 leaflets to distribute in the area letting residents know of the problem with school places and to gain support.
That was the beginning of SWEAT, the South West Enfield Action Team. We worked hard using our website https://wewantlocalschools.wordpress.com/… to get our message out there. We lobbied the Council, we went to the local press, we met our MP, we spoke to Councillors, we tried everything to raise awareness. I hated the way that Labour Councillors treated our problem as part of their political game, they didn’t care about us, we were a community group that could be exploited. The Labour Cabinet Member for Education called me naive for thinking I could do anything about school places, in a public meeting after I had spoken so that I was unable to respond. Political point scoring! But I did it! Despite what the Labour Cabinet Member for Education thought.
I used my influence and position as a school governor at Ashmole Academy to pursue a dream that has resulted in the building site pictured. One of the biggest disappointments for the Ashmole team was when our first free school bid failed! I felt that I had let down all those parents who had become wrapped in my enthusiasm and we can do it attitude … we had failed! I was bitterly disappointed…. it wasn’t a failure, it was a setback! Once we got over the disappointment, the Ashmole team took on board the feedback from the Department for Education and we submitted another, much improved free school bid and we were successful! I was so happy, not for me as my children would not get into the school but for all those parents who could send their children to an outstanding local school.
I am delighted that some of my fellow campaigners have gone on to become school governors and trustees.
My message is that if you see an injustice and if you feel strongly enough about it, others will feel the same and follow you. You can do anything if you put your mind to it! Ignore the nay sayers!
To find out more about Ashmole, SWEAT and myself visit:

Ballot Paper

Electoral Reform

How can it be that we in Britain, who set great store by our democratic process, can permit an electoral system which is so easy to cheat?

Most people will know that it is against the law to vote twice in a General Election, or for that matter any national vote, but most people probably do not realise that there is no method to control how many times you may vote in a national election.

If you have two places of residence, in different areas, then you are entitled to vote in local elections in both local authorities, which may not be unreasonable. The fact that the register to vote on local interests is held by the local authority is to be expected but the local property based register is also used for voting on national interests and therein lies the problem.

An individual who appears on two local authority’s election registers will automatically receive two polling cards for a General Election and there are no checks what-so-ever to ensure the individual only votes once. Just like there are no checks on a person’s identity when they come to vote.

Society sets great store on encouraging people to vote, reminding them of the sacrifices of those who have fought and died for the right, that women have barely had the right to vote for 100 years, and that in some countries in the world people still are unable to vote.

Surely it is an affront to all those who have made sacrifices in the past to not have a level of due diligence when allowing people to vote?

I would like to see debated:

  • A national register to list those who can vote on the national interest
  • Photographic ID checks to prove an individual’s identity when they vote
  • The right to be able to vote more than once
  • Greater controls on postal votes
  • Greater controls on proxy votes

I can hear the naysayers already with their issues on the complexities of merging local electoral registers, introducing standard ID checks, and the possible impact of a national database on an individual’s privacy.

Democracy is a prized asset and we should ensure that it is not open to abuse or tarnish by modern society. We need to debate this and if agreed introduce stepped change to ensure the value of democracy is not diminished.

When the Parliamentary Petition Committee is re-convened, following the 2017 General Election, I shall be raising a petition for Electoral Reform to have the current electoral register and voting processes debated by Parliament, with the desired outcome of a national database and greater controls on voting.


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Thank You

This morning whilst I slept Jon told our children that Mummy got more votes than last time but didn’t win the election.

Harry said “I should have taken some leaflets to school and then Mummy would have won”.

Poppy said “Never mind we’ll save them for next year.”

The General Election is over and I would like to thank all who supported me.

It wasn’t the result that I had hoped for personally and nationally but the reality is that Labour will not be forming the next government, have lost 3 general elections in a row, and have barely improved since their 2010 defeat.
Democracy is a great thing. I accept the result and will move on.

Next step to hold a thank you party for all of those who have helped on the campaign trail.


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Parliamentary Candidate for Edmonton

I am delighted to have been confirmed as the Conservative Party candidate for Edmonton. I have lived in Edmonton and the local area all of my life. I am a working mother of ethnic origin who is representative of this community.

I have a full career in digital technology and engineering and I understand the challenges for working families who aspire for the best for their children.

Only a Conservative Government can deliver the strong and stable economy required to deliver the best start in life for children, only a Conservative Government can deliver an improving NHS, only a Conservative Government can negotiate a good deal for Britain in the Brexit negotiations, only a Conservative Government delivers the family values that is best for a nation.

I would be honoured to represent Edmonton as the Member of Parliament and I promise to work hard to get the best for the people of Edmonton.


Training Women Candidates

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I went to Bosnia Herzegovina representing the Conservative Party to train potential female candidates for their General Election in 2018. I am interested in the political system in Bosnia Herzegovina as it is very different to the British electoral system. Theirs is a system of proportions with the candidates coming from a single list that is closed three months before the election. The rules surrounding the list means that 40% of the listed candidates will be women and a percentage will be youth. There are different challenges around women’s selection given that there are guarantees of a number getting on the list.

The candidates that I met on the workshop are highly educated women with very few being from a business background and some still students. The history of Bosnia Herzegovina impacts on the economy and industry of the country. One of the problems highlighted during my three day stay was that Bosnia is becoming a country of old people. One of the young candidates impressed me with her passion for the country and desire to be a candidate so that she could do something about the exodus of young people from her country.

Gio, David and I were very impressed by the female candidates when they pitched to us at the mock selection panel. Some things are the same in Bosnia as the UK, how can a woman stand out against fierce competition?

The workshop or training only worked because we had a fantastic translator Dragan. I was happy to give him a new word which he hadn’t heard before, hustings.

The session concluded with a visit from Senad Šepić MP who had flown in from London that morning. I hope to visit Bosnia Herzegovina again and see how the country develops and progresses.


IT Board

Techies & Women on Boards

I started writing this post before the cyber-attack on the BBC which took down BBC web services.

The biggest risk for Chief Executives, in arguably any business, is a cyber-attack and yet senior technical advice is not deemed a requirement at board level and in high level decision making.

I have just been appointed to a Trust Board and on that board I am the only woman and I am the only person with an engineering background.

Technology should be recognised as one of society’s much needed skills and those who are high ranking experts in that profession should be regarded in a similar way to other senior professionals in the field of law, medicine or finance, for example. Governance and Business Boards need to have board members with 21st century skills but until local and national governance acknowledge that technical skills are important to high level decision making then boards will not be representative of knowledge that is used at decision making in daily business life. My perception of board appointments is that a culture exists of sticking to the same type of person for board membership and by doing that women are excluded, ethnic minorities are excluded and those from engineering, and most of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers are also excluded.

Skills that are deemed a requirement at board level such as lawyers, doctors and accountants hold qualifications earned at university, technical engineering qualifications may or may not be earned at university but are not considered important on most boards. Deliverables from finance or medicine, for example, will use information technology for compliance, so why not on a board? Just as you would not want a newly qualified doctor with no experience on a managing board the same applies for an engineer with technical skills. However there needs to be academic labelling for technical skills that is recognisable for the level of skill that an IT professional can bring to a board.

Information Technology is a relatively new industry and so change can be difficult because of a lack of understanding of the skills however all services now heavily rely on technology. Unfortunately because everyone uses technology they think that they are an IT expert however that diminishes the responsibility that IT professionals have to deliver services that are secure and meet business needs.

A technology architect who designs a system that provides services that effect whole communities should have equal weight to that of a lawyer or doctor. A doctor may affect outcomes for a single person where as a Senior Engineer or an IT Architect can affect the outcomes for whole businesses. It has been reported in the media that Chief Executives biggest risk to their business is a cyber-attack. Given that the biggest risk is a security threat that only IT professionals can address it is surprising that their opinions are not being valued at board level.

In my experience a trust board making appointments today would appoint a lawyer easily with only a few years’ experience in planning law where as an IT engineer with many years of experience in engineering IT solutions that provides critical business services would have difficulty in being appointed.

The level of experience and knowledge that a board member brings is crucial to board appointments. For example it is unlikely that you would appoint a Help Desk Assistant to a board and similarly it would be unlikely that you would appoint a Ward Nurse. Just as a board would appoint a doctor, so at a similar level you should appoint Senior IT professionals such as an IT Architect or Senior Systems Engineer.

There aren’t many women in engineering roles and there are few women on boards and it has not been an easy journey for me personally to get onto either which is why I think there needs to be a change in perception of IT professionals and their skills, the simplest solution is to use a naming standard to label IT skill levels so that those outside of IT can agree that an IT Architect or a Senior Systems Engineer is a skill sought after on boards.


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Parks to be Locked

After what was described by a Friends of Parks representative as a “painful eight months” there was relief at Overview and Scrutiny Committee yesterday when it was announced that fourteen parks in Enfield would continue to be locked.

A decision to cease locking parks was taken by Cllr Chris Bond, Cabinet Member for Environment on 3rd October 2014 and called in to Overview and Scrutiny Committee by the Conservative Group. The decision whether to lock parks was deferred until now to enable consultation with the Friends of Parks groups. During the consultation period the council has seen a change in Cabinet Member for Environment to Cllr Daniel Anderson.

It was noted at the meeting that the council’s decision and the ensuing months had bruised the relationship between council and Friends of Parks groups. It was acknowledged that the volunteers who make up the Friends groups provide an invaluable service to the parks and community. In Volunteering Week this decision is a victory for democracy and for people power.

At last, the council are listening to the people they serve!parks


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Clean-Up Enfield

In the run up to the General Election I campaigned across all three constituencies in Enfield and found there to be high levels of rubbish left to rot on pavements and roads across the borough. Nick de Bois campaigned to keep weekly bin collections and Conservative councillors are calling for the local authority to maintain the current system, but even weekly bin collections don’t seem to be enough to keep our streets clean.

There is no question in my mind that Edmonton has by far the dirtiest streets in the borough and to be frank it is a disgrace.

Summer is fast approaching and the smells coming from decomposing rubbish are the least of our worries. Health risks associated with rotting rubbish on the streets will surely increase, the millions of harmful bacteria found in rubbish can multiply over five times during one week and researchers have found bacteria from the same family as the plague in household rubbish that has been left to rot.

In the first instance I would like to see Enfield Council simplify the process of reporting rubbish on the streets. When I have tried to report incidents of fly tipping via Twitter or Facebook I have been redirected to the council website for which the process of reporting rubbish seems akin to those annoying automated telephone answering systems. Surely it should be possible to report rubbish by telling the council that there is a problem, for example on Twitter or Facebook a message with a picture, road name and post code should be enough for Enfield Council to locate and clear the offending pile of rubbish.

Secondly, I don’t feel that Enfield residents should have to report issues of dumped rubbish to the council when we pay council tax for rubbish collection. Why can’t there be regular patrols, at least in the worst areas, to clear dumped rubbish? Let’s face it if you were parking dangerously or illegally Enfield Council would soon be available to resolve that problem, why can’t the same be done for rubbish?

Conservative councillors across the borough are already highlighting the problem of dumped rubbish on Twitter and I encourage readers to join in the campaign for cleaner streets. If you see dumped rubbish get a picture and tweet it with the following details:

Postcode, road Name, @EnfieldCouncil, #cleanupenfield

Let’s work together for a cleaner Edmonton and Enfield.