Two Fishponds councillors stepping down at elections

TWO of the Fishponds area’s best-known councillors have stood down ahead of today’s local elections.

Lesley Alexander (above, left) has been the Conservative ward member for Frome Vale for 21 years, while Labour cabinet member Craig Cheney (above, right) has represented Hillfields for nine years.

Lesley was first elected in 2003, becoming a councillor after taking early retirement from her job as a bank manager with NatWest.

Tory group leader Mark Weston said he was sad to be losing an “experienced, sensible, and reliable” colleague who had chaired scrutiny commissions, and regulatory committees and sat on outside bodies including Avon Fire Authority, as well as serving as the city’s Lord Mayor from 2016-17.

He praised her “unsung, voluntary, and charitable work” including fundraising for the Rotary Club for Bristol, setting up the Begbrook Retirement Club to provide activities for older people, securing transport grants for otherwise housebound residents and volunteering with Pet Search, which reunites missing animals with their owners.

He said: “Lesley has always commanded respect from across the political spectrum and is well known for her good nature, common sense disposition and practical approach to problem-solving. She has been a fierce champion of her residents and the greater Fishponds area.”

‘He thought I was a pirate!’

Lesley Alexander in her robes during her time as Lord Mayor

Lesley said her Lord Mayor’s costume, which included a three-cornered hat, red robe and jabot or lace bib handmade by Fishponds lacemakers, fascinated children on official visits.

She said: “One day I went to a nursery school and one of the little boys came up to me, very seriously, and quietly asked ‘Can I see your hook please’ – he thought I was a pirate!”

Lesley said she would not miss “some of the boring meetings” but would most miss being able to help constituents.

She said: “People are lovely – they will thank you for things you thought were very minor – although sometimes the big things were never mentioned at all!”

Lesley said she was proud of having set up the Begbrook Retirement Club, after finding the area had very little for older people to do.

She said: “I keep talking about older people and forget I’m an older person as well – I still feel 21.”

Lesley said she would continue to stay politically active, having first got involved with politics at the age of 15.

Frome Vale’s other councillor Amal Ali is standing in a different ward this year.

Deputy mayor Craig Cheney proud of service during ‘challenging time’

Last October the Voice reported that Craig Cheney was stepping down after nine years as a Hillfields ward councillor and seven years as deputy mayor for finance in Labour’s cabinet.

He said: “I was exceptionally proud to be elected as councillor to Hillfields in 2015, the ward that I live in and grew up around.

“During my time as a local councillor, I’ve worked with local people to improve our ward – securing funding to improve the community centre, co-locating the children’s centre in the library, and founding the Friends of Coombe Brook Nature Reserve – creating the positive changes our area so sorely needs.”

He said: “I’ve also spent eight years as Cabinet Member for Finance and seven years as Deputy Mayor.

“It’s been a challenging period of time; Government austerity has forced councils to pass on its budget cuts, but I’m proud that we’ve managed to protect frontline services like libraries and children’s centres, when many councils couldn’t afford to do so.”

Full list of candidates in Eastville, Frome Vale and Hillfields wards

Candidates in the Police & Crime Commissioner election