Continuing the Birley Ward Labour interviews, the second part of our conversation with Councillor Denise Fox is below:
Denise, what do you see as the main role of a Councillor?
It all starts with serving local residents. As a Councillor I represent every member of the community and also sit in full council meetings, debating issues that are important to all of Sheffield. I also feel its important to help people with issues they feel are significant, and help people understand the political process better.
What do you like most about Sheffield?
I love Sheffield. I think we have everything a city needs, from great education, theatres, football, cinemas and shops, and to top it all off we are surrounded by lovely countryside!
How do you fit the Council duties around your day job and family?
You need to have the support of your family, colleagues and friends. Being a Councillor never stops, and so understanding from those around you is key. I like to think I balance the different responsibilities well, and sometimes even combine them by bringing my grandchildren along to the Birley Blitz litter picking events!
Continuing the Councillor interviews, today Councillor Karen McGowan has answered a few questions on her motivations for becoming a Councillor, what she’s most proud of achieving and how local people can get involved in community activities.
Growing up in the Birley area, Karen has been a Birley Ward Councillor since 2010. The first question we put to her was what motivated her to become a Councillor?
I’ve been a member of the Labour Party since the 1980’s and have been active within the community for as long as I can remember with things such as being a school governor at Birley Learning Community and a member of the Birley Health Centre Patient focus Group.
It was Councillor Bryan Lodge who suggested the idea of becoming a Councillor. I was hesitant at first, but after shadowing other Councillors I realised I had the passion to help make a positive difference, and if being a Councillor will help me in achieving this, then it was something I felt I should get involved in. Although if you had told me 10 years ago I’d be entering my 5th year as a Councillor I wouldn’t have believed you.
In you time as a Councillor, what have been your proudest moments?
Serving my local community is something I’m extremely proud of. I’m really passionate about making it the best place to live and work for everyone.
The development of the Hackenthorpe Skate Park was a great success. We listened to all the residents and came up with a solution that’s worked for everyone. It’s given the local youth something they wanted and has been extremely popular so far.
Working with local volunteers is also something I’m always proud of, especially recently with volunteers who are running both the Frecheville and Gleadless libraries. I’ve found it a real privilege to help support such dedicated and hardworking residents who are making our areas better.
Additionally, the amount of litter around is something I don’t like to see, and so in response to resident concerns, the Birley Blitz litter-picking events were organised and so far these have been brilliant. It’s been a great way to get others involved and really make an immediate difference to how our streets look and feel.
How do you fit all the council duties around your day-to-day job and family?
It is difficult to manage as I have responsibilities just like everyone else. As well as being a Councillor I have a husband and daughter and work for the University of Sheffield 3 days a week. I’m very lucky in that my family are hugely supportive, as it’s them that my Councillor duties impact upon most as I’m often out both evenings and weekends meeting residents, at council meetings, or getting involved in local events and activities.
How can members of the local community get involved?
They can let me, Bryan or Denise (fellow local Councillors) know of any issue that’s important to them in our community. Alternatively, they can get directly involved in any existing community group we have such as Friends of Charnock Recreation Ground, Friends of Frecheville Park & Pond, Friends of Dykes Vale Park, volunteering at Frecheville or Gleadless library or even by simply buying and donating books from the libraries. There are already a lot of local people making a huge difference to our local community and I’m always keen to help others the best I can.
And finally, what are your main hobbies outside of the council?
I enjoy swimming and also like to read whenever I can – I’m a big Nora Roberts fan.
Saturday 21st March saw the latest Birley Blitz litter picking event take place around Birley Spa Primary School. Organised by the Birley Ward Councillors, the open space outside the school was tidied with the help of several volunteers.
At the event Councillor Karen McGowan said “we are very grateful to both the Sheffield City Council Parks & Countryside and Sheffield Youth Justice Service for supporting all of these events, we definitely couldn’t do it without them”.
This Birley Blitz tied in with the ‘Spring into Action’ and ‘Help Clean up your Community events’ which are national initiatives aimed at helping improve local areas.
Afterwards, Councillor Denise Fox commented, “when we first looked at the area we didn’t know where to start but the difference when we’d finished was impressive, thank you to everyone for helping out”.
Councillor Bryan Lodge added that carpets, a flat screen TV, kids bike, shelving, and car parts were just some of the items removed “It amazed me as there’s no way of getting a vehicle near so people have been carrying this stuff to fly tip it. It took two people to carry the TV so someone must have seen them!”.
Check back on our website, or follow us on twitter for information on future events. Everyone is always welcome to come along and get involved!
Over the coming weeks your Birley Ward Labour Party will be conducting interviews with local Councillors so that we can get to know them better and find out what motivates them to get involved with community issues.
First, Denise Fox was interviewed.
Denise, why did you first want to become a Councillor?
I am passionate about helping community projects succeed. I also want to make things fairer for residents and help reduce inequality. Starting as a Trade Union representative, becoming a Councillor was the natural extension of the work I was already doing.
Jan Wilson, the leader of the Sheffield Council at the time, first approached me about standing; she said ‘we need strong women in our party’, words which I took as a compliment and that have stuck with me ever since.
What’s been your best moment as a Councillor?
When the new houses on Silkstone Road were completed. I believe in quality housing for everyone. It was a struggle to get that far but was really worth it when the work was done and local residents could move in.
I also love getting local school children involved with playing and singing music, I’m part of a music hub board which organises a concert at City Hall every year, I love watching them and it always brings a tear to my eye!
Do you have any hobbies?
Spending time with my family is a always a favourite pastime of mine, especially my grandchildren. I have also recently discovered running, which I’m really enjoying. It all started last year when I decided to enter the Great Yorkshire 10k Race for a local charity.
Having never run before I quickly realised I only had 10 weeks to get myself ready, which meant learning everything from scratch. It was hard work but I’m very proud to have completed it – and I’m now hooked and love running!
Part two of the interview with Denise will follow where we discuss her views on Sheffield, the Labour Party and balancing family life with serving the community.
On Saturday 21st March the next Birley Blitz litter picking event will be taking place around the Birley Spa area. Volunteers led by your local Birley Ward Councillors will be meeting at 10am outside Birley Spa Primary School.
This will be the 7th Birley Blitz litter picking event to take place and all volunteers are welcome. The event will finish around 12pm and all equipment will be provided. If you’d like to get involved please contact Councillors Denise, Bryan or Karen, or meet us on the day.
What: Birley Blitz litter picking event
When: Saturday 21st March at 10am
Where: Meeting at Birley Spa Primary School
Who: You can join in with other local volunteers led by your local Councillors
How: Contact Councillors Denise, Bryan and Karen for more information, or simply turn up on the day – all equipment will be provided
A surgery type session on Streetsahead work is being trialled at First Point housing office, Crystal Peaks, 1-3 Peaks Square, S20 7PH 1pm until 5pm Thursday 19th February. This is where residents can come and talk to The South East Amey Steward about the ongoing works in their area or upcoming works.
If the session proves popular more sessions will be set up on a regular basis.
If you cannot make the surgery but have any problems to do with Ameys work in their area please contact Amey on 0114 2734567 or online www.sheffield.gov.uk/streetsahead or by email email@example.com
Thank you to all the supporters of Frecheville Library’s who made the Christmas Fayre on Saturday a huge success. Thank you to the people for putting on such a variety of stalls and of course a special thank you to all the members of the public for calling in and participating. The atmosphere was great. Councillor Karen McGowan and Councillor Denise Fox did a £50 draw which was won by Cheryl at Directors Cut on Frecheville. The Birley Ward Labour Party donated the £51.30 raised to Frecheville Library once again thank you to e4veryone for the support it is very much appreciated.
Local Birley Ward Councillor Karen McGowan joins staff from Sheffield City Council’s Environmental Planning section and the Sheffield Landscape Trust on a hedge laying course. Councillor McGowan said “It was more complicated than it looks but very enjoyable and the finished result looks great”. The course is part of the Eastglades Project and covers the open space between East Glade and Scowerdons estates. Local expert, Jasper Prachek, led the Hedge Laying course as part of the improvements works on the site. Councillor Karen McGowan added “part of the funding for this work is to hold public events, the idea is to involve local people. It would be great if we could form a new action group and encourage people to support the work”. If you are interested in forming a group or getting involved in helping out please contact Helen Mitchell at Sheffield City Council (0114 2735804). Any help and support would be gratefully received even if you can only give a couple of hours every few weeks it all helps to improve our local community.
On Thursday 30th October South Yorkshire will vote for our next Police and Crime Commissioner. Birley Ward Labour Party are supporting Alan Billings for PCC.
Alan’s first priority is to tackle the Rotherham abuse scandal head on by prosecuting child sex offenders and ensuring the victims receive justice. He also stands for rebuilding police trust, strengthening neighbourhoods and cracking down on anti-social behaviour.
Living in Sheffield, a former teacher, vicar and Youth Justice Board member Alan is an ideally experienced candidate to bring authority, respect and results back to the role of South Yorkshire PCC.
If you agree with the aims of Alan Billings then please vote for Alan on Thursday 30th October.
South Yorkshire will have a Police and Crime Commissioner and your Birley Ward Labour Party believe Alan Billings is the best man for the job.
On Saturday afternoon a group of over thirty local volunteers led by the Birley Ward Labour Party removed nearly sixty bags of litter from Jaunty Park. The fifth time a ‘Birley Blitz’ event has brought the community together to make a real impact in Sheffield.
The volunteers included local labour councillors Karen McGowan, Bryan Lodge and Denise Fox, as well councillors Mike Drabble and Lynn Rooney from Arbourthorne and Richmond wards. The East Youth Forum, Sheffield Youth Justice Service, Labour Party members, local residents and Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Sheffield Heeley Louise Haigh rounded off the volunteers. All taking time out of their day to spend over two hours collecting litter and helping make the park a cleaner and safer place for everyone to enjoy.
The grey clouds did little to put off any of the volunteers according to Councillor Bryan Fox who said it was fantastic to see so many people come together, and that it was really encouraging to see the amount of litter actually being dropped in the area was reducing compared to the amount removed during the last Birley Blitz litter pick. Evidencing the positive differences the Birley Ward Labour Party is having in Jaunty Park and across the Birley area.
Local resident Janet Betts pulled on a pair of gloves and grabbed a litter picker to help out, afterwards with a smile on her face she said the event was ‘a great atmosphere with everyone digging in together to make a real difference to the area’.
A special thanks is also extended to Sheffield Parks and Countryside for providing equipment and removing the litter filled black sacks, to Peter Wolstenholme for taking photographs of the hard working volunteers, and finally to Sheffield Housing Services for providing a free of charge room for everyone to enjoy a much deserved tea and cake afterwards.