Each week, the Advertiser will be talking to Andover's new councillors as they introduce themselves to the public. This week, we caught up with Stu Waue, the new town councillor for St Mary's

One of Andover’s newest councillors has said he hopes to inspire more independents to enter politics following his election last month.

Stu Waue (pronounced Vow-er) was elected as an independent for Andover St Mary’s on Andover Town Council on May 6, beating off competition from Liberal Democrat Richard Kidd by 42 votes. Stu, who vowed to never join a political party, said that he wanted more people like him to get into politics.

“I want to prove in the next two years you can still go to work full-time, still look after your family and do your bit for the community, and hopefully others will follow and have a go themselves,” the 42-year-old said.

Stu hopes to run his work as a councillor alongside his work for Co-op, where he works as a delivery driver. He is a lifelong Andover resident, having been raised here, met his wife in town, and brought up his own family. As a result, he knows a lot about the different perspectives on Andover life.

“I’ve spent the best part of 42 years hearing people be proud living in Andover and hearing people slating Andover,” he said. “Ultimately, you can’t just slate a place and not try and do something about it. If my kids are going to live the same life as me and stay here all their lives, why not make it a bit better?”

He says that his political awakening came with Brexit, where his interest was piqued by the “unprecedented” nature of the vent.

“Everything that was going on was stuff that people will be talking about years from now,” he said, "either saying it was the biggest mistake if it destroys the country or if this was where it started if we make a go of it. Whichever way, it’s unprecedented.”

He said that his attention began to be drawn to more local matters, particularly the politics of Andover Town Council, through his own personal interest and through groups such as the Andover Political Forum.

“The last couple of years have seen a lot of controversy and arguments and most of it is absolutely unnecessary at that sort of level,” said Stu. “It should just be a case of everyone sitting down, talking about what is best for the town, and getting on and doing it.”

However his drive to enter the fray himself didn’t come until a nudge from his son, who he helped with supporting Andover Foodbank. Stu would buy extra bits of shopping for his son to donate at school, and then at Tesco during lockdown.

“It was something that started from a large distance and I gradually drew myself further into it,” he said. “There were several steps towards elections, there wasn’t any one thing.”

Following their donations, and the introduction of £50 ‘spend to save’ vouchers at Tesco, Stu and his son posted on Spotted in Andover to encourage others to give the money they had saved through the scheme back to the foodbank in the form of goods.

“It gave him a warm fuzzy feeling that he’d done something good to help people,” said Stu, “and others were taking it onboard and maybe doing it themselves, and as it happens it gave me a little bit of the same feeling.

“Being charitable isn’t always about giving extra things, sometimes it is just about helping people do things where you might be able to help more than others.”

Stu’s election campaign took a more low-key approach than some of his rivals, choosing to advertise online and in local media rather than printing leaflets for all of St Mary’s.

On his decision, he said: “Realistically, by throwing money and resources to try and get myself elected into an unpaid job doesn’t really give the impression that I would be that great at saving money when it comes to things like running allotments or helping with staffing, because you’ve already provided you’ve thrown money away whether you got elected or not.

“You can’t recoup the cost.”

He also took this more relaxed approach on the day of election, when he worked a double run at work, believing that the public had heard him and should make up their own mind.

“Once Thursday was over, there was nothing I could do by standing over people’s shoulders irritating them during the vote, and what was going to happen was going to happen whether I was there or not,” he said.

When the results were revealed, he came out narrowly ahead of Richard Kidd, taking the second of the two seats available behind Nigel Long.

“It means 562 people (I don’t count myself) looked at what I’d said and decided they agreed with me or wanted none of the above on the rest,” said Stu. “Somebody thought enough of what I was saying to put my X in the box.

“It’s like my campaign said, I won’t make promises to move heaven and earth and have free parking or this and that, because I’m one person, I have to persuade the whole council to push things through.

“We need to get done what we have at the moment before we start crusading for things.”

At present, he has three key issues on his mind, which are the running costs of allotments, the resolution of the dispute over ‘double taxation’ between Test Valley Borough Council and the town council, and the arguments between town councillors.

“If I could fix just one of those three in the next two years, that would at least mean I could stand proud and say I did something to help,” he said.

He said his first meeting was “a learning experience” as the council met in person for the first time in over a year, but that it wasn’t too much of an issue, as others were in the same boat. He said that there was work to be done on hybrid meetings, however.

“I feel that people are slightly more accountable in person for what they say and how they treat people in person than if they’re sat behind a computer screen at home,” Stu said. “But the element of public participation was lost in the last meeting because not many people could hear what was going on, so I would like to carry on in person but perhaps allow for the public to get more involved, either by relocating the cameras and microphones or by letting a handful into the back of the room.”

He says that this involvement is his main political ambition, where he hopes more people will take up the mantle to change their town for the better.

“It may seem like a weird thing to say,” Stu said, “but in two years time, my seat will be up for grabs. I would like to see a lot of competition for those seats from people like me.

“Not the retired, wealthy or business owners, but people with families and jobs.”

For now, he’s looking forward to the next meeting of the council, and the political future of Andover as well. He hopes to remain a councillor for the long term, but is fully open to what the public decide.

Stu said: “Ultimately, I’d like to think I could do a good job and warrant my place at the next election, but if I don’t, then I fully deserve to lose the seat.”