OBV Profile: Sukhninder Gill

Gill, 29, has been a councillor for the Longbridge Ward since he won his place in May last year. He is currently completing a PhD into strategic alliances in financial services at Kings College in London.

Describing his experience so far as a councillor he says: "It's been very interesting, it's a tough political climate because it is the fastest changing borough in terms of it becoming a mixed community and with that can bring dynamic challenges and resistance."

As well as being the chief whip for the Labour group in the borough, Gill is also the vice-chair of the licensing committee, vice-chair of the personnel board and manages the race and faith portfolio for the Leader of the Council.

He explains that managing the race and faith portfolio means that he meets regularly with community groups, assesses their needs and feeds back to the Labour group in Barking and Dagenham to see what they can offer to meet those needs.

Much of those needs Gill believes include a number of problems from lack of social housing to racial tensions. He adds: "Lack of engagement with young people is also a problem. People say they represent the community but there are no voices that represent the young, old or ethnic mix, so what we want to do is try to change this and represent the face of the community.

Gill's keenness to improve the borough stems from the fact that he was born, educated and grew up in the area. His Indian Punjabi parents were both instrumental influences in his decision to get involved in politics, especially his father, Nirmal Gill, who has been a councillor for the same ward for over 12 years.

He explains: "My dad encouraged me to get involved; he taught me that there is no point standing on the side - he said if you want change you have to go out there and do something and one of the best ways of being able to do that is by being a councillor."

Gill attended Aston University's business school in 2000 where he attained a Management degree. Although during and after his degree he worked in a number of companies such as 3M, JP Morgan, and then Morgan Stanley filling an IT position, he left to do a masters degree in International Business in 2001.

He says that throughout that time he had the urge to kick start a political career. He says he experienced his first political moment in 1986, at eight years old, when he met his then local MP Jo Richardson. He explains that she left a big mark on his life because she was approachable, down to earth and had a connection with local people.
Gill says that meeting stuck in his memory which is why he continues to be very passionate about grassroots politics and communities, and sees Labour politicians like Parmjit Dhanda and Dawn Butler as its new leaders.

Alongside issues such as lack of social housing, one of the major challenges he is facing is the British National Party's (BNP) grip on the borough. He says: "Beating the BNP is the most important challenge for this borough. The BNP is there to destroy communities not build them."

Gill says he sees a number of ways of loosening that grip: First to dispel the myths used by the BNP to incite racial tensions, second to work at a local level by talking with people in the community in partnership with trade unions, and third to deliver on social housing, health and regeneration in the borough.

He is currently shadowing Margaret Moran MP (Luton South) on the OBV MP Shadowing Scheme and has recently submitted his application to be on the panel from which Parliamentary candidates are selected.

Of his experience on the scheme he says that he has valued the support of his mentor and enjoyed attending parliamentary sessions and committee meetings. As a shadow he believes that his passion for politics has grown and feels at home in Westminster.

Discussing his future he says: "Personally I want to continue doing my work with local people and continue to keep the borough the vibrant mixed community that it is. I also hope to be an MP; I want to go into parliament, not to make up numbers, but to make a real impact".