Cllr Sainsbury is Peterborough’s youngest town councilor
Fletton and Stanground’s 20-year-old Tory councilor Oliver Sainsbury made history after becoming Peterborough’s youngest town councilor in the May election.
He was 19 at the time.
Six months into his role, Peterborough Matters caught up with him on a walk around the neighborhood.
From joining the Youth Council at age 13 to becoming a city councilor, Sainsbury has shared some of the highlights and challenges he has encountered during his journey so far.
“I joined the Conservative Party in 2015 at the age of 13,” he said.
“The reason I got into politics is that there aren’t many young people in politics – I wanted to change that. But this year there have been two more in the Conservative Party besides me. – Nicolle Moyo and Saqib Farooq.
“Former Hargate and Hempsted Town Councilor in Hampton, Janet Goodwin, really inspired me in politics. But unfortunately she passed away last year, I’m sure she’s proud of me. And after this news, I wanted to go even more.
“Since I was elected, I started running. I find the communities really interesting. The two areas of the neighborhood – Fletton and Stanground – are so different from each other.
“This was reflected in the votes I received as well. Fletton is a much younger region while Stanground has a lot of older people [people].
“I remember polling day the Boy Scout Hut was my best voting district. Many people have said to me: ‘you are so young’. Someone came to ask me how old I was and was a little surprised to learn that I was only 19 years old.
“She came back and said ‘I voted for you but don’t forget us wrinkles’. So I’m always mindful of that. I always try to balance strategies and discussions for the elderly and the youth.”
Peterborough Matters asked if the electoral victory had already been achieved.
“To be honest, my victory was unexpected – I overturned a majority of 700,” he said.
“I think a lot of people voted for me because of my age. They got some literature from me that had my face on it so they could see that I was very young. People said, “It’s nice to see young people in this role,” which really energized me.
“I also get along with my other neighborhood councilors – not too many problems. We are just doing our job and if we have to work together, we keep going. ”
Sainsbury says he hasn’t encountered too many problems in the service yet, but is trying to stay on top of things.
He added: “A lot of my emails come from Stanground
“I receive quite different emails from the two regions. This was reflected in my electoral victory – I did very well at Stanground but came third at Fletton. My biggest challenge has been to help both groups and to find a balance between the two populations.
“Multiple occupancy houses [HMOs] are a big problem here especially at Fletton. I get messages about overgrown trees and bushes, with people wanting them cut down on sidewalks.
“Another problem is parking – it’s a huge problem – a narrow road and HMOs. For example, an ambulance could not get out once because of the parking problem.
“Enforcement officers are struggling to tackle the problem at the right time. I have respect for them – they had a hard time during Covid. They have a tough job.
“Stanground has had issues with crime, including a stabbing earlier that prompted me to make a motion on knife crime. There have been reports of theft. This road here, Manor Garden, is used for rat races by drug dealers, which is a problem.
“Another one, as you may know, is the Fletton cruise car – I get a lot of complaints about it. But it is a matter of the police. ”
Police say it’s council business, I say.
“What’s important is that we work together,” Sainsbury replies.
“No need to blame anyone. I have had a constructive dialogue with the police but progress is slow.”
As I walked, I pointed out the condition of the roads – we encountered quite a few potholes and very bad road surfaces in several places during our walk between Stanground and Fletton.
“Stanground in particular is very bad, I agree,” says Sainsbury. “During the July floods, Stanground was very bad.
“I pushed the board and they started to work – they have to work with Anglian Water on some of these issues.
“I report at least two potholes per month. It is important to recognize that [in] a survey, [the] city was voted as having the best highways in the country. They react quickly, I must say.
“But I’m working on it, hoping to poll the streets.”
During his journey from the campaign to now six months since taking office, Sainsbury shares reports of abuse he has received. But he says he’s determined not to let it affect him.
“Earlier I was scared when I decided to run for councilor,” he says.
“I have suffered a lot of abuse. My age has always been questioned. Even since I was elected, I have suffered abuse. It did not put me off. In fact, I think everyone these people who voted for me trusted me, despite my age, I continue, it stimulates me.
“Before, I was sensitive to these things. In politics, there are unfortunately abuses. I still get it from time to time, even from other parties.
“It’s really sad. I think it’s especially difficult to be a young Tory adviser. We’ve been known to be a wicked party in the past – we should live in an open democracy. I’m proud to be conservative and proud to be a municipal councilor in the region.
“What happened to MP Sir David Amess is extremely sad. But my counseling surgery didn’t stop. If anything, he just told me it’s more important to have this communication.
Going forward, Sainsbury says he wants to be “realistic” about his aspirations for the communities he represents.
“My goal is to constantly improve,” he says.
“I want to work to tackle the fly spills in the ward. The Manor Garden I mentioned is particularly bad. The paving of the roads is another and I’m working on it.
“This underpass that we go through that leads us to Fletton – you can see there’s a lot of graffiti. This can deter people from using the area. It was one of my commitments to do more murals, so I’m going to study that.
“At the end of the day, I want to make life better, communities better. Of course, I agree with the party’s policies, but I didn’t enter politics just for the policies, but to make a difference in the community.
“I was part of the local Scout group and always participated in community events, litter choices. I really enjoyed these activities and want to keep doing them.
“I look forward to working in this role for the long term. But I said it earlier and I’ll say it again, if you think I’m not doing a good job, you can reject me.
“I will continue to campaign for things I believe in. The knife crime motion that I brought forward is good to see the progress that the police and the authorities are making.
“I’m also in talks with Darryl Preston, Commissioner of Police and Crime, to see if we can bring the Knife Angel to Peterborough. Funding is an obvious challenge for that, but let’s see.
“I also want to say to young people who aspire to get into politics, have no fear.”