Alex Bulat for Abbey
County Candidate for Abbey
I’m Alexandra Bulat and I am standing for the Cambridgeshire County Council elections for the Abbey division.
When I moved to the UK from Romania in 2012, I struggled to understand my flatmates speaking in English. Eight years later, I have a PhD in Political Sociology, I am a recently naturalised British citizen, and I am even standing for local elections! I currently work as a migration researcher in academia and as a project manager in the UK migration sector.
During my first few years in the UK, I did not even know I had the right to vote, let alone stand, in local elections as an EU citizen. I became engaged in politics in 2017, after realising how decisions made in politics affect my rights directly. Since then, I have been a vocal migrants’ rights campaigner with the largest organisation representing EU migrants in the UK, the3million. I have also campaigned on access to education and improving access to information and democratic processes.
I joined the Labour Party in 2017, the same year I got involved in migrants’ rights campaigning. I joined as a migrant who wants to see local politics better reflect the communities it represents. Over 800,000 applications to the EU Settlement Scheme were received from Romanians, but I only found 2 Romanian Labour local representatives in the entire UK. If elected, I will probably be the first-ever Labour County Councillor with a Romanian background!
I also joined the party as a young woman who struggled for quite a while to have a good standard of living. I moved to Cambridge in 2015 and worked throughout my studies, because I had to. I still work long hours and pay about half my salary on rent for a studio – and I am very privileged, compared to many friends. I joined Labour to contribute to a fairer economy, where everyone should be able to have a decent standard of living.
As a migrants’ rights campaigner, I want to ensure that all residents’ rights are protected, regardless of where they come from. For instance, even before I decided to stand for election, I worked closely with Councillors to inform EU citizens about the EU Settlement Scheme and co-organised informative events in the city. I’m also passionate about ensuring access to education at all levels and for everyone, regardless of age or immigration status. I believe fair access to education starts with good early years provision and I will campaign for proper funding for state-funded nursery schools. In my third sector job, I work with a team of young volunteers, so I am interested in all areas related to improving the lives of children and young people. In Abbey, one in five children live in poverty and this is not acceptable anywhere, let alone in one of the wealthiest cities on earth.
What I enjoy most about local politics is listening to residents and being able to support positive change. Local politicians are representatives of an area – they are not there because they know better, but to listen to residents and represent their views. Since being selected for Abbey just a couple of months ago, I have learnt so much from residents, from early years funding facts, to the different types of roundabouts or verges an area could have. I am very grateful to be able to listen, learn and then act.
I am proud that the Labour-run City Council set an example to other councils by sending information about the EU Settlement Scheme to every household. I’ve also been impressed by how Cambridge Labour has developed the food hubs and offered accommodation to every rough sleeper during the pandemic. As someone who works in a small organisation, I appreciate how the City Council funds local-level groups to support community-led responses for mutual aid and reducing inequalities. It’s also great and necessary that Cambridge Labour has committed to achieve a carbon-neutral City Council by 2030.
It’s a very different picture at the County level. One thing that shocked me was that the County Council refused to pay its workers living wage. If the Labour-run City Council can do it, why cannot the County Council commit to this? It is crucial that we elect more Labour County Councillors this May so we can have a stronger group who can protect key services from Tory cuts.
When I’ve been out and about talking to local residents in Abbey, they raise lots of concerns from the poor state of the verges in some areas, to the infamous Newmarket – Barnwell Road roundabout.
One urgent issue in Abbey is early years provision and the County Tories recently voted to cut the nursery out of the Barnwell Community Centre plans. I asked questions on this at relevant County meetings and I was sad to see that the community responses were not seriously considered. I will support a community-led response and campaign for improving democratic processes so that community consultation at County level is not only a tick box, but a transparent process in which Abbey residents can feel that their voices are listened to.