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Current South Ribble Borough Council leader to stand for Labour at general election

Posted on - 16th July, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Bamber Bridge, Leyland, Longton & New Longton, Lostock Hall, Penwortham, Politics, Preston News, South Ribble News, Walton-le-Dale
Paul Foster is the current leader of South Ribble Labour

The leader of South Ribble Borough Council says he hopes that the trust he believes he has earned in the role will persuade residents to make him the area’s next MP.

Paul Foster was chosen as the Labour Party candidate for the currently Tory-held constituency following a hustings event at the weekend.

He has led the borough authority since 2019 and his Labour group stormed to its strongest victory in almost three decades at this year’s local elections in May, taking outright control of the district for only the second time in history.

Read more: Major shake-up of Preston and South Ribble constituencies for general election

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service about his selection by local party members, Cllr Foster said that he will not be forgetting his local government roots if he ends up in Parliament after the next general election – and suggested that his council experience might also help him get there.

“’I’m never over optimistic, but I’m realistic. I know that the local community trust me and trust my leadership…and judgement. So if I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it.

“I think with a fair wind [and by] campaigning hard…that we will see a Labour MP [in South Ribble] for the first time since 2010.

“I understand acutely that local government is so important to all communities – and I don’t think that’s recognised, necessarily, at a government level all the time. But the pandemic proved that – the government didn’t support the communities during the pandemic, local authorities did.

“Leading the council…through [that time], I realised that the decisions being made at a parliamentarian level are bad for the community – and it’s having a hugely negative impact.

” Government needs a reset and a Labour government will deliver that reset,” said Cllr Foster, who was first elected as a borough councillor in 2007 and has been Labour group leader on the authority for the past eight years.

Read more: Chief executive of Royal Preston Hospital quits

Asked whether – with a general election potentially being another 18 months away – there was a risk of him taking his eye off the day job while he tried to secure a place in Parliament, the Bamber Bridge West representative dismissed the suggestion, saying that he would have been out campaigning over the next year with whoever had been chosen as Labour’s candidate.

Cllr Foster said that he had been motivated to stand for Parliament following the death of his mother at the age of 68 shortly after the start of the first Covid lockdown in 2020.

“I was…disappointed and angry that the last few weeks of her life were very stressful for her because of some really poor decisions that the government made.”

The 52-year-old army veteran beat Chorley councillor Kim Snape to the South Ribble nomination by 107 votes to 78. Cllr Snape had contested the South Ribble seat in 2019, but lost out to Katherine Fletcher – then the new Conservative candidate for the area and now its sitting MP.

Ms. Fletcher has a majority of almost 11,200 – the largest of anybody who has held the constituency since it was formed in 1983. In the 40 years since then, the seat has been a comfortable banker for the Conservatives, except during the 13 years of New Labour government between 1997 and 2010, when it was represented by former Preston City Council leader David Borrow.

Read more: Former Mayor of Penwortham has died aged 52

The South Ribble seat is not entirely contiguous with the council area – incorporating some Chorley Council wards on its western side and being minus South Ribble wards like those covering Walton-le-Dale and the Labour candidate’s own Bamber Bridge patch.

Barrow-born Cllr Foster rose to staff sergeant during a 15-year army career in which he served in the Corps of Royal Engineers, seeing action in the first Gulf War in 1991 – where he was stationed with British and US Marines in northern Iraq, defending the Kurdish population – as well as the Kosovo conflict in 1999 and the war in Afghanistan two years later.

Since then, he has worked extensively in project management and now runs his own company in that field, specialising in social developments.

He is married with children, but stresses the importance of his family’s privacy: “I choose to do politics, they don’t,” Cllr Foster said.

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