60 seconds with… Councillor Oliver Freeston

Councillor Oliver Freeston was elected in 2018, aged 18, and is now Chair of North East Lincolnshire Council’s Children and Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Panel.

Q How did you become interested in politics?

A It was because of our local MP – Martin Vickers (Con, Cleethorpes) – I went to Parliament age 15 while still at secondary school and watched what he did, listened to debates, and absolutely loved it.

Q How did you become a councillor?

A I contacted our local council leader, Cllr Philip Jackson, and he was very welcoming. He invited me down for an interview. It was with five older men. I thought, ‘this is going to be interesting, I’m a young Herbert from a working class background’. Even my Dad – a lorry driver and trade unionist – said: “Don’t be upset if you don’t get it.”

They asked me lots of questions and if I would like to stand in my own ward. It had never been won by a Conservative since it was formed.

We ended up winning it and getting national coverage, in The Sun and other newspapers.

Q What was it like winning your home ward?

A It made it a thousand times better, being the go-to person in your own town when you know people. They had seen me growing up from a boy kicking a football over the fence, and now I was going to represent them.

Q Has your youth been a help or a hindrance?

A I don’t think it made any difference. It was the person local people wanted – someone to address the concerns they cared about. My older councillor colleagues have really taken me under their wing. We have now got a mix of youthful ideas and their wisdom – it’s a good combination.

Q Why are there so few young councillors?

A Probably because politics isn’t cool! Going out and getting drunk or being captain of the football team is cool. I don’t want to jump on a youth bandwagon. People who are older always have life experience. While it’s important to have a good range of people standing as councillors, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a balance or set ratio – it’s about the right person for the job. If the people vote for them, they vote for them.

Q What’s your most memorable moment as a councillor?

A There was a lady who had problems for months with potholes in her road. “If you get elected, I want that sorted out,” she told me. I got back from the count at 5am and she rang at 9am to say well done on getting elected – and when are the potholes getting filled in. I talked to the head of works, who said it wasn’t on the road plan. But the next day someone checked it out and the next week they had been filled in. That was when I realised I had entered into public service and that it wasn’t going to be easy.

Q What are your political ambitions?

A I’m interested in politics. I grew up dreaming of being the Prime Minister, and that would be my ambition.

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