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parents’ evening, the course of Judith’s imagined career pathway changed. “I always had an inkling that one day I would read Medicine at University and become a Doctor. I thought about my Granny Hobbs, who was one of the first female students to go up to Cambridge, so why not me?” But this was not to be – instead Judith was heavily influenced to take History, English and Geography at A Level. However, showing early strength of mind and making her own considered decision, Judith left school mid­studies, to join Barclays Bank in Birmingham, studying and attaining the Institute of Bankers Part 1.
After marrying her husband Mike in 1970, a Research and Development Scientist, the inevitable house moves, job changes and meeting new people was a great “experience gathering” time. Birmingham to Lichfield to London, and then to Faringdon and lastly, Great Coxwell, Judith worked in posts as a Medical Staffing Officer in various Hospitals and finally for 22 years at the Royal Military College of Science as Head of Course Administration. These life experiences would be drawn upon in what was to come next!
A chance visit to her home in 1987, from
a vote­canvassing politician set Judith on a course that would change her life! Encouraged to go to a local Conservative Party meeting, a politically­engaged Judith began her public service journey. Asked to stand as a Town Councillor, and understanding that a commitment to local community politics was a huge amount of work, not for the first, or last time, Judith turned to her husband and closest confidant for advice. “Mike is a massive support to me, you can’t take up a political role without the support of those closest to you. We are both busy people with diverse interests, so what he says matters hugely to me. And he said, ‘Well, if you don’t go and try it, you’ll never know will you?” Winning her seat, Judith was successfully elected Town Councillor for Faringdon.
Since then, Judith has served as a District Councillor, where she was Deputy Chairman of Planning, before becoming a County Councillor in 1997. In 20 years, she has held various roles as spokesperson for Social Services, member of the then Education Committee, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, with a portfolio
that included Libraries, Gypsy and Travellers, Museums, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Trading Standards, Culture and membership of the Arts Council and the Thames Valley Police Authority and, since 2013, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care.
Judith comments, “Being in Cabinet is a responsible position. When I was the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, the question of closure of the Oxfordshire Library Service came up for debate. I voted against my colleagues, to keep the Library Service open. Closure of libraries would have stopped pre­school story times to encourage early literacy, quiet study and work areas for students and professionals, and also book clubs, to encourage appreciation of literature in adults and the lending of books and other materials.
I attended public meetings across the County meeting many people advising on future plans for the libraries a project that aimed to keep all the County’s libraries open with support from people within the local communities. All of our libraries remain open with the support and help of volunteers. I am delighted to say that the Library Service across Oxfordshire is open and saved for the future.”
“Working for and in the community allows local politicians to gain ‘bottom up’ insight. Central Government can cause problems for Local Government politicians, however, politics with a small ‘p’ can actually win through for local communities. Getting under the skin of a community is very humbling and empowering. Thinking differently about a problem can change what’s finally implemented – sometimes things become disparate over time – but by working through problems and scrutinising them as we do in local government, we can accomplish good outcomes.”
In her Cabinet role for Adult Social Care. Judith felt hesitant at first, but now admits to loving it. “There is no doubt that the Adult Social Care remit covers a diverse portfolio of needs – encompassing the ‘real lives’ of people; those who are living longer, those who are living with a disability or a condition, and those who are at risk and in need of protection.”
Meeting and listening to people who are carers, or families involved in caring, care
providers, employees and professionals, gives her a clear understanding of the sector. Impacts such as dementia do increase pressure on service provision, but they can also cause change and allow new ways of working.
Focussing on aspects of her present role, Judith discusses several areas that matter to her; reports in the media about the state of the NHS, funding and the numerous reforms since the 1970s that have shaped present day services. There is no doubt that the NHS, accessible to all, is an organisation to be proud of, yet is it fit for the 21st Century? Are we taking it for granted and are we far too reliant on its services? Referencing the financial support for the NHS, Judith comments, “In Oxfordshire, we have to work within the financial envelope available to us, we meet our statutory duty and thus meet assessed eligible need.”
 ‘I have come to understand that perhaps my life experiences, past job roles and political experiences have assisted me greatly in this role and continue to do so’.
 ‘My dearest wish would be for ever better joined up working with health and ourselves as a local authority we have done much already in Oxfordshire but, of course there is always more that can
be done’.
“I also wish that, as people are living longer, they not only have the right to a good quality of life, but also remain as independent as possible in their own homes in familiar surroundings close to friends and family. I would like to encourage and enhance a sense of community spirit to ensure that local people in local groups become more aware of the people around them, who may be lonely or in need. Finally, I would encourage joined­up working with, not
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