By: Shubham Ghosh
The contest for the mayor of Leicester this year has taken a dramatic turn as Rita Patel, one of the leading members of the city council, quit the ruling Labour Party and decided to run for the top job.
If elected, Patel, who served as the assistant mayor in the city council between May 2019 and March 2022, will be the first woman as well the first of British Asian heritage to become the mayor of a European city.
Leicester is England’s 12th largest city and the first to have an ethnic minority majority, according to the recent census.
Patel, who is a councillor from Rushey Mead, has more than 40 years of experience working in the community across a spectrum of issues — from running a women’s organisation and building the Peepul Centre to fighting for social justice across communities as well as creating strategies for business growth in the East Midlands.
About her mission, Patel said, “This city (Leicester) needs a fresh start. We, the people, need to reclaim the city and ensure it works for us all. Over the last 12 years, the city mayor has ensured that the council heavily invested in the city centre and left people in our neighbourhoods out in the cold. I want to ensure that no single person has the ultimate power in this city. It has proven to be unproductive and dangerous. It is time to scrap this system once and for all.
“We cannot allow the people of this city to feel disenfranchised and disillusioned. There has been a clear failure of leadership and I am determined to set the right course for Leicester’s future. We need an accessible and responsive council that works and above all, puts people first.”
Patel’s campaign focuses on five core promises to the people of Leicester:
● Scraping the mayoral system
● Building a council that cares and works for all
● Strengthening Leicester’s economy
● Investing in neighbourhoods
● Protecting Leicester’s green spaces
Stressing that the Leicester City Council “needs to be accountable and transparent”, Patel said, “When I speak to people in this city, they tell me that they feel that the council does not care about them. Their neighbourhoods have continuously seen declining investment, whilst the city centre has had regeneration and investment every single year. We need investment in neighbourhoods, investment in our people and investment in Leicester’s future. That’s what I’m determined to do.”
In the days to come, Patel is set to outline more details about her vision for Leicester and the course of action to help all members of the local community.
Peter Soulsby is the current mayor of the city with one of the most diverse populations in the UK and he has been serving since 2011.