We are now in the middle of campaigns for local by elections. Two of the vacant seats are a result of the sad loss of our Labour friends, former councillors Joan Ellis and John Colhoun.

They were people of integrity, compassion and spent years supporting their communities.

We all become Labour councillors in order to reduce inequality, tackle social injustice and support the towns and villages where we live and have brought up our families. You can be assured, when you put your trust in Labour you will get people who will be there working hard on all the council business that seldom gets noticed, but gets our children schooled, our houses built and our parents looked after.

On the other hand, what do you get if you vote independent? The answer is often “a Conservative”. In the last set of elections two independents quickly joined the Conservatives and a Conservative became an independent.

You also get – and I quote the former Independent leader of Allerdale – “negativity and disruption and a permanent mistrust of staff and fellow members. They dodge responsibility for collective decisions, focus on the past and neglect important decisions”.

I was also struck, reading last week’s column by Mark Jenkinson MP, how the Tories see no irony in glorying in the possibility of a one-party state in Cumbria. And spare us the “levelling up” rhetoric, for it's like a burglar offering to give you back your telly while they rattle your jewellery.

For the first time, I am standing in a by-election for Cumbria County Council. With their plans for a new unitary authority, the Conservative government is going full pelt for a power grab. I care too much for my community, my local health service, schools and social services, to let that happen.

Labour councillors are also doing their bit in preparing to help get our town centres back to business, to thrive again. For example, in Keswick, the two Labour councillors are working within council to combat the proliferation of housing lets that have such a serious negative impact on local housing.

I understand that people may feel uneasy about going to a polling booth in these difficult times but there is still time to register for a postal vote as long as it reaches Allerdale by next Tuesday, April 20.

Your vote is a huge step in the journey back to the life we all want and to get back to tackling inequalities that have been heightened by the pandemic and disproportionally impacted on women and children.