The first ever black ethnic minority councillor has been elected to Cherwell District Council.

Dr Chukwudi Okeke (Chuk) - an automotive engineer and researcher at Oxford Brookes University - stood as the labour candidate for Banbury Cross and Neithrop in last week’s local elections.

After a personable campaign, characterised by a consultative approach with residents, Chuk won the election by 334 votes. And in doing so, he has made history.

Dr Okeke said: “I’m delighted to represent the people of Banbury Cross and Neithrop. I’m very grateful to them for electing me. They have made history by electing the first black man to Cherwell District Council.”

Chuk has ambitious plans for his ward and for Cherwell more generally. He wants to focus on climate change and air quality, housing, rent prices, speed limits and tackling loneliness.

He said: “Banbury is an old town, it’s growing, there are lots of demands from people. Most want a 20mph speed limit introduced across Banbury, so I will support that.

“We also need more housing, and the town centre is facing high rent, so I’m keen to work with other councillors to address these issues.

“We also want to focus on air quality, and hope to replace the council’s vehicles and licensed taxis with electric vehicles.”

Chuk has mixed feelings on being the district’s first black councillor.

He said: “It’s not a discussion we should be having in 2022. The election of a black ethnic minority should have happened a long time ago.

“I think the Labour Party in Banbury looked into this issue and of course concluded that it wasn’t right, so they selected me to run.”

Having lived in Banbury for over a year, Chuk knows the town is a very welcoming place.

Although he is aware of the lack of representation of black ethnic minorities in the local political parties.

He said: “When you walk around Banbury, you will see a lot of black people. They come from Africa, usually Nigeria or Ghana, and quite a few work in the NHS.

“They are part of the community. But a big factor in them not involving themselves with local politics is that nobody in local politics looks like them. Sometimes they can be overlooked.

“When I was elected, a lot of black people were jumping up and down in happiness and asking how they can join the Labour Party.

“I believe that everybody’s voice should be heard. A healthy society is a place where everyone is recognised and given opportunities. That is what I want to work towards.”


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