A Wirral GP hopes to inspire an important change at the borough council.
Dr Ivan Camphor, 59, could become the first ever BAME (black, asian and minority ethnic) person elected to Wirral Council it is understood.
Dr Camphor, who was born in Pakistan and is standing for the Conservatives, told the ECHO he hoped his candidacy would encourage others from ethnic minority backgrounds to come forward.
He is one of a small number of BAME candidates understood to be standing for election in Wirral this year.
Labour’s Shabil Syed is standing in Eastham, while Conservative Rania El Zeiny is running in Claughton and the Green Party’s Emily Gleaves, who is half-Chinese, is standing in Birkenhead and Tranmere.
Dr Camphor, who is running in the marginal Pensby and Thingwall ward, moved to the UK from Pakistan to study and has worked in Wirral for almost 28 years.
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He is currently a GP at Heatherlands Medical Centre in Woodchurch.
The Tory candidate for this year’s election, which takes place on Thursday, May 6, said he was passionate about improving dementia care for the elderly and would be campaigning on two other key issues as he saw them.
The first of these was Wirral’s greenbelt.
On this, Dr Camphor said: “If you look at any medical literature, green space is good for wellbeing and mental health, taking that away has a negative effect on people.”
“We need to safeguard it and protect it, but there seems to be a huge disconnect between what the council’s intention is and what people want.
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“I hope in this election people will speak up clearly and tell the council it can’t take away greenbelt land because it is not for sale.”
Wirral Council is currently developing its Local Plan for house building over the next 15 years and has pledged to protect the greenbelt as part of this.
The GP disagreed with Wirral Council’s decision to close Pensby Children’s Centre late last year.
Dr Camphor said: “The nearest place is now Bromborough. When you have something like that in the heart of the community and you close it that’s wrong.
“Why should someone have to travel to Bromborough? My intention is to fight for the children’s centre to be reinstated.”
The Conservative candidate also wanted the council to invest in young people, particularly through youth centres, places which Dr Camphor said helped to “empower young people” and give them a “place of belonging”.
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Dr Camphor also said the fact that vaccine take-up among some ethnic minority communities was noticeable low was concerning.
He said: “It is terribly important that we all get vaccinated, we all need it if we are all to be safe.”
On the issue of why there have not been any BAME candidates elected in Wirral before now, Dr Camphor said: “I’m not entirely sure. I’m not sure if there is an element of racism in it.
“I decided to stand to defend the greenbelt. As far as the Conservative Party goes, they have been very welcoming and supporting all along.
“I am not aware of any element of racism personally to me or with the people I work with.”
The Wirral doctor thought his candidacy might inspire others to come forward.
He added: “Hopefully it will inspire more people to come forward, [but] I never thought of it when I was standing.
“The reason I am standing is to protect the greenbelt and things like children’s centres.”
The Pensby and Thingwall seat Dr Camphor is running in is normally seen as a close contest between Labour and the Conservatives.
As the deadline for nominations has not yet passed, the full list of candidates for the ward has not been confirmed, but Labour, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats are all standing in the constituency.
Labour candidate Tim Watson is 56 and used to work as a chemist, but he now cares for his youngest son who has autism.
Mr Watson said: “I’m proud that Labour is standing candidates from diverse backgrounds, male, female, BAME, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] and disabled candidates across Wirral.
“All our Labour candidates are united in their determination to address serious local issues such as unemployment, poor housing, ill-health, and inequality.
“I have been actively opposing greenbelt development for many years and was a committee member of the Stop Hoylake Golf Resort Action Group.
“As a member of ‘Defend our NHS’, the local health campaign group, I am fighting for full public ownership of the NHS and the removal of private companies seeking to make profit rather than improve health care.
“Labour’s plans will see the greenbelt protected, with the Birkenhead plans offering improved housing on brownfield sites and many local employment opportunities.
“One of Labour’s most successful strategies to combat inequality was the introduction of Sure Start children’s centres and it is a tragedy that so many have closed under Conservative governments who have imposed draconian cuts targeted on Labour run councils.”
Green Party candidate Allen Burton, 76, who works as a chiropodist, said: “My number one priority if elected would be the protection of the greenbelt, reflecting the strongly expressed wishes of local residents.
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“I would press hard for Wirral to make good its commitment to meet the government-imposed requirement for new housing by only building on brownfield land.”
The Liberal Democrat candidate is Dr Phil Waterfield, 58, a recently retired research and development manager at Unilever in Port Sunlight.
Dr Waterfield said: “The Liberal Democrats used our votes to end the cabinet system that undermined trust in local decision making. Our council with no overall control is now better placed to decide spending priorities.
“Liberal Democrats have always worked across party divides in the interests of Wirral, and we will continue to do so. More Liberal Democrat councillors will enable an even better balance of decision making that affects all our lives living in Wirral.
“The all-party approach to regenerate parts of Birkenhead, to avoid building on the greenbelt, which is of particular concern to the residents of Pensby and Thingwall, has widespread support.
“Developers who challenge the council’s plans will be strongly resisted by the Liberal Democrats.
“As councillor for Pensby and Thingwall, I would be pushing for any new housing developments to include a large percentage of affordable homes for our low income families.
“Councils like ours need a fairer funding settlement from central government, and we will continue to press them to recognise that.”