Perry Barr and Sheldon – two Birmingham wards that have been led by the Liberal Democrats for over 15 years. The former is undergoing massive regeneration and hosts the Commonwealth Games this summer, while the latter is fast becoming one of the most popular postcodes in the city for property buyers.
Neither ward has been a happy hunting ground for Conservative candidates over the years. But two 20-year-old twins from Sutton Coldfield are vying to change all that.
William Jenkins, standing in Perry Barr, and his brother Oliver, standing in Sheldon , believe that Birmingham has suffered under ten years of Labour leadership. They told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that only a vote for the Conservatives will bring about real change for the city.
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“I’ve watched ten years of Labour waste,” William said. “There’s litter all around Birmingham and waste services are failing. I’m looking to create a positive change.”
His brother concurred and said they had both become ‘pretty efficient leafleters’ of late. He also gave some insight into what motivated them to run for a seat on Birmingham City Council .
“I’ve been exposed to politics basically my whole life,” said Oliver. “I can remember helping my dad out during general elections when I was eight years old – we’ve been exposed to that sort of stuff quite a lot.”
Their father Cllr Meirion Jenkins is currently the local representative for Sutton Mere Green and stood in the 2010 general election. Aiming for a Conservative father-son trifecta next week at the local elections, the twins touched on the influence their dad has had on their campaign.
“I think it’s clear he’s had an influence,” William said. “We’ve been campaigning with him since a young age so yes, as anyone would have an influence after working with someone for so long.
“I think it’s important to emphasise though that I’m personally motivated to stand in Perry Barr. I want to represent the people of Perry Barr to the best of my ability.
Elaborating on what he would do for the ward, William continued: “We need to make sure we will clean up waste and spend money efficiently. Only recently Labour budgeted £2 million to move Perry Barr bus depot for the Commonwealth Games – that’s now projected to cost £27.8 million and may no longer be needed for the Games.”
The LDRS reached out to the Birmingham Labour Party regarding these figures. The Leader of the Council Cllr Ian Ward said: “As usual the Conservatives are talking down Birmingham, and talking down the Commonwealth Games and the homes, jobs and opportunities that are being created thanks to Labour’s bid for the Games.
“The Games have already leveraged £1 billion of investment into the city, and the movement of the Perry Barr bus depot will allow us to build new homes and deliver vastly improved public transport as part of the redevelopment of Perry Barr.”
Oliver also criticised Birmingham City Council’s current leadership: “I think the Labour council has badly affected all areas of Birmingham, including Sheldon. One of the main concerns for me is the cost-of-living crisis. Labour has added £450 to the average council tax bill since 2012 – it’s not good enough, especially as I believe the services have gotten worse.”
Cllr Ward came back on this claim too. He said: “After over a decade of Tory austerity and with demand for services rising thanks to the cost of living crisis, we’re left with no real choice but to raise Council Tax if we’re going to properly serve and support the people of Birmingham.
“The Birmingham Conservatives act like the champions of low tax, which is pretty rich when you think about it. Because they’re the party that has raised the tax burden on working families in Birmingham to its highest level in 70 years.
“Sunak might be planning to give us all 1 pence in the pound back, but for every pound he’s giving us back, he’s taking another £6 in other taxes. So, whilst the Chancellor is doing everything he can to reduce his own tax bill, the rest of us don’t have that chance.”
Both brothers were quick to take aim at Labour. They believe their age could be a secret weapon, and that a ‘fresh face’ will give Conservatives a better chance of getting elected.
“I think it’s really important to spread the Conservative message,” Oliver said. “This time we’re freezing council tax, scrapping the travel tax, and plan to cover reliable collection services with free green and bulky waste services.”
The Birmingham Conservative Party manifesto for this election puts a lot of emphasis on making the city greener. When asked about this, Oliver continued to say that he thought the £8 Clean Air Zone charge is ‘seriously dangerous’.
“I am really worried about the city centre at the moment,” he said. “I think we’ve got to push people into the city – there are so many jobs there and at the moment we are discouraging people from going in.”
Like many other Conservative candidates standing in the local elections, both brothers were keen to avoid commenting on the Prime Minister and the Conservative government. Oliver did admit though that Partygate was ‘not having a massive positive effect’ at the moment, while William expressed a desire to focus on the local issues that affect residents of Perry Barr.
If you are a resident of either Perry Barr or Sheldon and haven’t seen William or Oliver out and about, that’s because by their own admission they haven’t knocked on many doors yet. “We’ve still got a week to go,” he said. “We are planning on trying to persuade some more people to vote Conservative.”
They certainly have their work cut out for them. During the 2018 local election, votes for both Perry Barr Conservative candidates combined only came to around 19 per cent of Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Jon Hunt’s total votes. Nonetheless, the twins remain steadfast in their ambition.
“I am here to help you”, William assured potential voters in Perry Barr. “We are looking to reduce your bills by freezing council tax.”
Speaking to voters in Sheldon, Oliver said: “Vote for a strong local Conservative voice to freeze council tax and improve public services.”
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