One of Andover’s new town councillors has said his aims are on education and affordable housing as he takes his seat on the town council.

Cllr Michael Mumford was elected as an independent to Andover Town Council in the elections on May 6. Speaking to the Advertiser, he said that he hopes to help people view the council in a new light.

“Of the four tiers of government, people quite often disregard the town and parish councils but I think they’re so important at getting at the truth,” he said, “and giving the public what they want their town to be.”

Michael is Hampshire born and bred, coming into the world in Winchester before moving around Coventry, Rugby and London. In the 1970s, he settled in Andover, where he has been ever since. For much of this time, he was a teacher, spending decades teaching at Harrow Way School as a full-time member of staff, as well as in supply and contract work.

“I think teaching prepares you well for being a councillor,” he said. “People often say teachers should live in the real world but I don’t think anyone lives in the real world more than teachers, dealing with kids’ problems all the time,

From his experience, he is particularly passionate about child hunger, and making sure every child gets a decent meal.

“Hungry children is something I am particularly uptight about,” he said. “You shouldn’t punish children for fickle parents. If parents aren’t feeding them properly you need to feed them properly and educate the parents.

“Every child should have one good meal a day, so let’s serve school meals during holidays as well to ensure that happens. Sometimes it’s to do with there not being enough money in the family, so we need to support foodbanks as there are hungry children around.”

Michael has also been a veteran of local politics, having stood for the Labour Party in general elections on three occasions, as well as for other councils as well. However, he stood as an independent for the town council, saying that he believed party politics should be kept out of parish councils.

“I feel strongly about standing as an independent,” he said. “I want to make decisions that are based on what’s best for Andover and sometimes that means that’s not party policy.”

He says that town councils should highlight the issues that affect their area, and make sure others know about it.

“You should be making sure the powers that be know and making sure they do something about it,” he said.

One issue he raised is that of affordable housing, for which he says the town council should recommend more be built when considering planning applications.

“We can recommend to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) and so I think through that we need to bring forward affordable houses for people.”

He says that more co-operation with the borough council is key to achieve change for Andover.

“With the Masterplan, we need to co-operate better with TVBC on rejuvenating the high street,” said Michael. “Another thing is that we don’t want to see people sleeping on the street, and to give them their due Test Valley have done a good job on that, but people who work should get a good wage. A living wage rather than as happens at the moment having to be supported by income support while working.

“It’s the state subsidising businesses in that way, I feel, while paying out a miserable wage to people. You hear people say that people are out of work but have a flat TV, but why shouldn’t they have a flat TV, or their children have a computer? They’re disadvantaged if they don’t.

“The fact that a professional footballer can earn more in a week than a cleaner will in a lifetime is just rampant capitalism gone wrong.

“I’m not totally anti-captialist, I’d like to see a mixed approach to things, but that sort of thing really means there is failure in the system. We’ve learnt that shelf-stackers, cleaners and poorly-paid health workers are so vital to us during the Covid outbreak, and we should look into that and changing it.”

As part of this, he says people need to re-evaluate what the town council can do, and wants to help teach people about its role.

“I’d like to see an education programme about what government is all about,” he said. “If you ask the average person in Andover what the four tiers of government are they probably won’t be able to tell you.

“I think educating people about politics is important, as for the most part most people in politics want to do good. Quite often people with opposite views to me have the same goals, just a different way of getting there.”

In particular, he says that he wants to get those on the council to settle their differences.

Michael said: “I would like to think the sort of personal attacks that are made won’t happen, but if they do, let’s get in a room away from it and sort it out, rather than keep making it public in a way that keeps happening at the moment.

“It’s almost as if people are struggling for authority and part of that seems to be discrediting other people. Why do that?

“I always think blowing out somebody else’s candle doesn’t make your candle burn any brighter. More co-operation, more talk and more listening is important. People tend to shut off other people when they have a row but you need to listen to them, and if they’re making sense then agree.”

As he begins his term representing Millway ward, he hopes he can bring change to how people view the town council, and focus on the steps it can take to bring change for residents.

“I’d really like to highlight the good things the town council have done,” he said, “and I think there’s a lot more we can do about recognising the good it can do.

“It’s about trying to make the environment and Andover itself a better place for everyone to live in. That’s the overwhelming thing. It’s about service to other people, it’s not about gratification. It’s about quietly helping others.”