Sean MacLeod is one of nine Green Party councillors on Lewes District Council, where he represents the Ouse Valley and Ringmer ward. MacLeod joined the council after previously working in mental health support, and has recently tabled a mental health motion at full council. We spoke to him about his background, achievements and experiences on the council.
How long have you been a member of the Green Party and why did you join?
I have been a Green Party member for around 14 months. I first joined because my local district councillor was very engaging and I agreed with what he stood for – before that I had found myself in a bit of a political no man’s land.
Who is your Green hero?
Councillor Johnny Denis and Sian Berry on an equal level. Johnny got me to join the Green Party and has helped me way beyond what I thought a person could, and he’s also down to earth and a genuinely lovely bloke. Sian because I think she, along with Jonathan Bartley, has really taken the party forward and guided us through the difficult landscape of Brexit, and then her stature in the past year with the climate emergency has just grown. I think she is a very good leader and does great things not only for the party but for the face of women in politics and that can only be a good thing.
What was the first campaign you were part of?
My first campaign I was active in was the 2019 district elections where the Lewes Green Party did incredibly, leading to nine Green councillors. We also did amazingly in the town elections.
What did you do before becoming a councillor?
I was a stay-at-home dad to my two wonderful boys and campaigned locally about mental health issues (I still do) and before that, I was a mental health support worker.
What made you stand to be a Green councillor?
My kids – they are my world and I think about the future they face and the climate emergency we are in. I often think about the words of Billy Bragg, “Should I vote Red for my class or Green for my children?”, and I have realised that our children are the ones that are going to be left with the mess we leave behind, so we need to listen to them and think of the future they have to face and help make a change.
What is a typical day in the life of a Green councillor?
As a councillor on a number of different boards, my day will involve lots of reading papers and going to committees. I have to say I love being a councillor – I really enjoy casework and making a real difference in people’s lives. I also love being on the planning committee and pushing the Green agenda, and I also like that no day is ever the same.
What have been your biggest successes as councillor?
My biggest success personally has to be the mental health motion I tabled at full council, making sure that we put mental health towards the front of everything we do and making sure that we take into account when making decisions the potential impact that this could have on someone’s mental health. We now join other councils around the country in the mental health challenge.
How have you been able to collaborate with other parties/councillors?
There are nine Green councillors on our district council, and we are in alliance with the Lib Dems (eight councillors), along with three Labour councillors and two independents. We are working together very well, as we have declared a climate emergency and plan to be carbon neutral by 2030, so we are making real significant changes that will only benefit our climate and also our own personal wellbeing. So, working together and at times making compromises is something we have to do and I actually think we do it very well.
Why do you think Green policies resonate in your ward?
My ward is massive but a large percentage of it is open countryside. I think the reason my ward is so Green-focused is that they have seen that our previous sole Green councillor got things done and led from the front, but was also always available and was honest and open. I think when the district elections came around people looked at what we had been doing but also how we operate as a party and liked what they saw with Councillor Denis – we show we get things done but also we don’t hideaway.
I also think being a ward that has so much green space really resonates with people as they care about our climate and their surroundings. We also now have three Green Party councillors in the ward – we run a campaign on the Power of Three, and it’s amazing to be elected alongside Councillor Emily O’Brien and Councillor Johnny Denis. Emily is the cabinet member for planning and Johnny is the cabinet member for communities, and together we really are doing great things.
What support do you receive from the Association of Green Councillors and how useful has it been?
I have received regular emails and they help answer any questions we have. It’s also really good to see what is going on in other people’s areas around the country.
What are the aims of the Lewes Green Party over the next few years?
Well, being a council with a Green leader and in an alliance with a number of other parties, we really have a chance to shape how things go over the next few years. We can lead on our climate emergency changes, we can work on real sustainable developments and we can shape policies around developments to make sure they are really sustainably focused. We have a chance to make a real difference in Lewes and while working with our alliance partners will mean that compromises will have to be made, we know that now is a chance to guide Lewes District as a real champion on tackling the climate emergency we face.
Sean MacLeod is a Green Party councillor for Ouse Valley and Ringmer on Lewes District Council.