Q&A: Ipswich councillor Sarah Barber set to take over as mayor from Roger Fern in May

Sarah Barber is ts going to be the new Mayor of Ipswich.

Sarah Barber is ts going to be the new Mayor of Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

At the age of 45 and after just a single year as an Ipswich borough councillor, Sarah Barber isn’t any ordinary candidate for the town’s next mayor. Jason Noble caught up with her to find out more

Nurse Sarah Barber hands out flyers at a Junior Doctors event at Ipswich Town Hall.

Nurse Sarah Barber hands out flyers at a Junior Doctors event at Ipswich Town Hall. - Credit: Su Anderson

With Roger Fern’s term as Ipswich mayor coming to an end in May, Priory Heath borough councillor and Ipswich Hospital nurse Sarah Barber is set to take the reins as next year’s nominated candidate, following a formal vote.

We sat down with her to talk about women’s politics, being a nurse and the year ahead.

Sarah Braber is ts going to be the new Mayor of Ipswich.

Sarah Braber is ts going to be the new Mayor of Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

When did you decide to put yourself forward?

It was last year – I just really wanted there to be another woman mayor, we haven’t had one for a couple of years.

I know it will be a bit of a shock for some people because I have only been a councillor for a year, but it was a really good opportunity and women’s representation in politics is something I feel very strongly about – that’s one of the reasons I wanted to become a borough councillor in the first place.

Sarah Barber wins Priory Heath Ward at the local election count at Ipswich Corn Exchange.

Sarah Barber wins Priory Heath Ward at the local election count at Ipswich Corn Exchange.

It’s quite different to being a councillor – what was it that attracted you to the role?

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It’s the fact that you get that chance to highlight things that really concern you and one of them is that I think it’s very important you have a woman to do the role because then it shows that women are in politics.

I think it’s great we have the Queen, it’s great we have a woman Prime Minister but that sometimes overshadows the fact that there isn’t that much representation underneath – and not just in politics but throughout the public world.

There was a thing on the news this week about sporting bodies having to have at least 30% on their board otherwise they are going to have public funding withdrawn.

Sarah Braber is ts going to be the new Mayor of Ipswich.

Sarah Braber is ts going to be the new Mayor of Ipswich. - Credit: Archant

To actually have to get to that point where you are forcing organisations to have 30%, it’s not brilliant is it?

Are you hoping it will provide a visible presence for women to make a difference?

I think you can talk about it, but until you see other people doing it that’s when it’s a reality.

I mentioned about the Prime Minister and Queen and they are good role models for women in politics, but they are quite remote roles.

They are people you see on the TV, not people you get to meet very often.

The mayor is hopefully someone you can meet, my telephone number is on the website and you can phone me.

How are you feeling ahead of taking on the role?

A little bit apprehensive but I’m just really looking forward to it.

The previous mayors have done a really good job and I will have that support in the group to help me.

I just think it is going to be an amazing experience.

I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be able to do it, and grateful for that opportunity to be able to carry on what people don’t talk about – service and duty.

It is going to be really good just to meet lots of different people across Ipswich, that’s the thing I am really looking forward to.

I think as mayor you get to highlight work that other people do like volunteer groups and the people who work in the community who sometimes are really valued by the people they work with but don’t necessarily get a wider audience.

What can you bring to the role of mayor?

I think it’s being a bit younger, being a woman, having the appreciation of what it is like to be working and trying to combine having a public role as well.

Also there is that sense from the public sector, which Roger has had a really strong thing of through his mayoral year, of manning the concerns of people and using the role to help to highlight some of those concerns.

I think that is something I will be able to bring.

Your day job is as a nurse at Ipswich Hospital.

I started at Ipswich Hospital in 2001.

I work in the Raedwald Day Surgery Unit in the recovery room. I am an adult and children’s nurse and have worked as a recovery nurse for most of my nursing career.

I am the nurse who looks after you when you wake up from general anaesthetic.

Your husband Luke is going to be your consort.

Yes he is, I think he’s feeling really excited about it too.

It will be really good to have Luke’s support through the year. He has been supportive of me being a borough councillor and the work that that brings with it, and it will be nice for us to do this together.

How have you found your first year as a councillor?

I’ve really enjoyed it and it’s been brilliant to be able to make that contribution.

It really carries through some of the reasons I wanted to become a nurse as well. It can sound a bit trite but it is to help people, it is to care for them and being a councillor is another way of doing that.

Mrs Barber’s nomination will formally be put to council in the May meeting, having been declared as the Labour Group’s preferred candidate.