Falkirk Council: New Labour group leader

The new leader of the Labour group on Falkirk Council has pledged to work with other parties to improve the area, after being told by voters that people want to see the politicians stop bickering.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 4:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2022, 1:09 pm

Anne Hannah is the newly elected councillor for the Lower Braes ward, where she almost doubled the Labour vote and became the only Labour candidate to top the poll in any ward across Falkirk.

It was the result, she says, of “old-fashioned campaign tactics, like knocking doors, talking to people, listening to people”.

And she heard the same things time and again.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

Councillor Anne Hannah, Labour group leader on Falkirk Council

“I heard a lot of disgruntlement – a lot of people fed up with Falkirk Council, fed up with the bickering among councillors, fed up with the constant cuts to services.

“Add to that, they’re fed up with the huge hike in the cost of living and so many things.”

The doorstep conversations persuaded her that it was time for change – and she wanted to be at the heart of it.

Read More

Read More
Stenhousemuir family still awaiting refund after Ryanair error over boy's passpo...
The names of all 30 newly-elected members of Falkirk Council

She said: “It said on my leaflet that I would be a fresh voice for the Lower Braes but over those two months I came to the conclusion that maybe the whole of Falkirk Labour needed a fresh voice.”

At the Labour Group’s first meeting, last week, she was voted in as the leader of the nine-strong Labour group, replacing Falkirk North councillor Robert Bissett.

“I’m very grateful to Robert and the outgoing Labour group for the work that they did but I felt absolutely sure that there is a need for a different approach,” she said.

“We’ve got a fresh new Labour group with a lot of young people – we’ve all got a lot of learning to do but the enthusiasm is almost palpable.”

Ms Hannah does have an advantage over many new councillors, however, having worked for many years in local government in welfare rights, something she has always been passionate about.

She set up a welfare rights team in what was then Lothian Council and helped it grow to a 42-strong team.

In 2013, “council cutbacks” saw her “restructured out of a job” which gave Anne time to spend time looking after her mother-in-law and elderly parents before they sadly passed away.

She returned to work for polling experts Ipsos and while Covid hit, she was furloughed.

She spent “a very strange six months” volunteering – along with several neighbours in Blackbraes, where she lives – as part of the 3D Crowd, producing NHS-standard face shields.

Eventually she went back to work with Ipsos this time doing random Covid testing for the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Always in the background, though, was her membership of the Labour Party.

“I had been in and out of love with the Labour Party over many years – I think that applies to a lot of people,” she said.

But when her daughter, Emma, started university, she persuaded her mum that it was time to get back involved.

Earlier this year, when Ms Hannah was asked if she would stand for the election, it was Emma who persuaded her to “go for it”.

Ms Hannah now says she is willing to work with any party who will help her carry out some of Labour’s manifesto pledges – indeed she has been busy talking to people and reading other parties’ manifestos, looking for common ground.

But she is clear that she considers funding for councils to be woefully inadequate which has led to many services being “cut to the bone” and she won’t stop fighting for more cash for basic but vital services.

“I want constitutional matters out the window – that’s nothing to do with Falkirk,” she said.

“Let’s focus on the needs of children, young people, vulnerable people – let’s look at what services are needed and where we can agree.”

The role of depute leader – most recently filled by Alan Nimmo – now goes to 22-year-old Euan Stainbank, now a councillor for the Falkirk South ward.