Joseph Booton: A ‘seismic shift’ in Reigate and Banstead

“This seismic shift is down to many factors but predominately a sense amongst residents that the Greens care about the local community.” Newly elected Cllr Joseph Booton for Earlswood and Whitebushes on Reigate and Banstead Borough Council speaks to Green World about his experience of the local election.

Reigate and Banstead Green councillors

Cllr Della Torra, Cllr Joseph Booton and Cllr Ruth Ritter for the Green Party in Reigate and Banstead

Joseph Booton

The current political structure of our borough is Conservative-controlled. The borough has 45 seats made up as follows: 28 Conservative, seven Green, seven Residents Association and three Liberal Democrats.

Unsurprisingly, this election campaign was unlike no other. The challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic meant although we could legally canvas, there was a lot of debate and questioning about whether we should. As a group we took the decision to let the individual constituents decide and took to the streets, if only to provide a friendly face and someone for people to talk to. We were delighted to experience a really warm reception from our constituents and to find that the majority of people were thankful we had taken the time to knock on their door, even if they weren’t persuaded to vote Green. Several votes were swung our way merely for taking the time to say hello.

The feeling of winning is great! Of course, with this follows a feeling of immense responsibility and also pride. Pride that all the hard work you have put in has been rewarded by the majority of your constituents recognising your efforts at the ballet box. I had previously stood for borough council and also for Parliament so for me this really was third time lucky!

The green issues currently affecting our area are a proposal to build a council-owned crematorium on an area of greenland popular with local residents as well as home to a nature corridor for wildlife, ensuring truly affordable homes are built and provided to those most in need in the borough and protecting our Green Belt land from further permanent loss through development.

As well as some big-ticket items, fundamentally I’d like to achieve a sense amongst my constituents that they have a councillor who is truly representing them, regardless of who they voted for, makes them feel listened to and is able to provide them with timely and well-considered answers to their questions and casework requests. This I feel is the cornerstone of any councillor and the most important thing to get in place first before getting too bogged down in committees and paperwork. I’d also like to read all 268 pages of our council’s constitution!

My ward and the neighbouring ward have been Conservative-held for many years. Over the past 15 years they have moved to complete Green control both at borough and county level, with an additional Green seat being won in a third ward. This seismic shift is down to many factors but predominately a sense amongst residents that the Greens care about the local community, are always seen out and about, not just at election time but throughout the year, and keep residents updated regularly on what’s going on in their area so they feel connected to their councillors throughout the year and election cycle.