27 March 2009
020 7237 8390
Out distributing party pamphlets from the age of just ten, Cllr Mary Foulkes was never in any doubt that she wanted to join the Labour party.
“My parents are from St Lucia - my father came over when he was 22-years-old and was a janitor at Hackney Hospital and then a train driver for forty years. He always drummed into me that the only party that looked after working class people was Labour.
“I grew up on a council estate in Blackheath and soon saw just how important local councillors can be. Our first councillor was excellent - quick at responding and a strong campaigner for the area. But with his successor it was like chalk and cheese.”
Over the past fifteen years, she has worked around the world as an HR director, for Ford Motor Company, HSBC and Timberland. She now works for the East London Mental Health Trust. With all my work, I didn’t quite feel I had the
time to commit to being a councillor.”
What turned her round was moving to Southwark some nine years ago and getting involved with the 2002 elections. “I was focusing on Livesey and, while Labour lost, I got to know some of the people there very well.
So at the 2006 elections, I stood only in Livesey and was privileged to be nominated.” Admitting that she finds all the politicking at Town Hall far less interesting than being out and about in her ward, Cllr Foulkes says that when she just knocks on a constituent’s door and asks how they’re getting on, the surprised reaction is usually - ‘is there an election coming?’
Running from the Old Kent Road down into Peckham, she says she feels very safe in her Livesey ward. “I love being out and about. If you walk around Peckham Park Road at about ten at night, it’s really vibrant. To me there’s something unique about the melting pot in that area. Yes, there is an issue around crime, but whenever the word Peckham is mentioned, all the media take an interest and that creates a misconception.
“You can see how the area is changing for the better. On the Tustin Estate there was a community hall that was shut and good community action got the work done to it - it’s now a well used centre. On the Friary there’s a really good TRA, who managed to lobby the council quite effectively to get some of the repairs done, and they now have money from the Peckham community council to refurbish the community hall.
As the vice chair of the community council, Cllr Foulkes says that of all the issues she sees come before her, two always stand out. “Overcrowding is such a big issue. We have large Turkish and African communities, with big families, and kids are really suffering.
“Also the call centre - we used to have an area housing office in the middle of the Acorn Estate, which was so much easier for people - particularly elderly people - to get to. And the response from the call centre seems so slow. These things have to get much better.”
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