Cllr Alex Collis
City Councillor for King's Hedges
I’ve lived in King’s Hedges for over 25 years and brought up my son Sam here, as a single parent. In fact we lived within sight of the flat I’m in now, right on the edge of the wonderful Pulley Park. King’s Hedges is spoilt for choice with green spaces, including Nuns Way Rec, and has a friendly, community feel. I honestly wouldn’t live anywhere else in Cambridge and it’s a privilege to represent my community.
I am one of six sisters and grew up just outside Cambridge in a house that was noisy but fun. After leaving school I studied English and then, when Sam was four, went back to the lecture room first at Anglia Ruskin and then at the London School of Economics, where I studied Social Policy.
I’ve worked in community development, especially around food poverty and food justice, which is my main driver as a councillor. During my time at FoodCycle I set up two new community meals, free to all, first in Abbey and then in Arbury. Never happier than when I’m in a kitchen with a great bunch of volunteers!
When I was elected to the City Council in May 2019, I knew straight away that I wanted to take on the role of lead councillor for anti-poverty and sustainable food. I’ve experienced food poverty myself as a young mum, and I can’t bear to see residents struggling in the same way. Even more so now, with the Cost of Living Crisis, fuelled by this disastrous government.
Austerity has really damaged communities like King’s Hedges and we have a generation of children growing up in real, increasing poverty. The removal of the Universal Credit uplift has affected people badly leaving them with a choice between heating or eating. I’m proud to represent the City Council on the Food Poverty Alliance and have now moved two motions at full council calling on all members to get behind our plans to promote food justice.
The positive side of this has been people’s readiness to support one another during COVID. I volunteered for five months running a community meal delivery scheme and we were inundated with offers of help and donations. And that help is still coming in two years later! We have nine food hubs across the city doing amazing work, almost entirely run on volunteer power, and supported financially by the City Council. And we are starting the work to make Cambridge the latest Right To Food city.
Community in action is a wonderful thing to be involved in – as Joe Strummer said, ‘Without people, you’re nothing.’
Elsewhere in my work as a councillor I am Executive Councillor for Open Spaces, Sustainable Food and Community Wellbeing – a portfolio that recognises the importance of – and connections between – access to open space and nature, good, sustainable food, and both our communities’ physical and mental health. I’m also the Deputy Leader of the City Council.
Ward work, though, is the most important part of being a councillor. My job is to represent people in King’s Hedges – whether they voted Labour or not. I advocate on their behalf, and try and resolve any issues they might be facing. A lot of my casework revolves around housing – alongside inequality it’s the most important issue in King’s Hedges.
It’s great to see the City Council addressing housing need so proactively, building over 500 new council houses (with 1000 more to come). I’m especially pleased to see King’s Hedges hosting the latest modular homes – 6 fully adapted homes to help homeless people off the streets and into longer term accommodation.
When I was out leafleting recently I met one of the new tenants and we talked for a while about what having one of these new homes meant to him. How much he valued being part of a community, having neighbours to say hello to. That’s the difference a Labour-run council can make, and why I’m so proud to be a local councillor. Councils can.