The Mayor of Trafford discusses the riots, parks, blood pressure and segregation in 1960’s America

By Joshua Powling, Political Correspondent

Walking through Sale Town Hall, with its wooden-panelled rooms and the pictures of stern looking former Mayors looking down in their regalia, it can seem like a very forbidding place.

But the building itself is a marriage of the new and old, as much of the old building remains, with a modern core added towards it. Not many town halls have their own mini theatre and art gallery, and gleaming new space for the entire community to enjoy.

The current Mayor of Trafford glows with pride as we walk around Sale Waterside Arts Centre, itself part of the Town Hall.

Councillor Jane Baugh, who has represented the Priory ward for 21 years, became Mayor in late May after a year as Deputy Mayor.

“When I was asked, it had to be something the family would support you with really, I was very pleased to be asked, it’s like having a sabbatical, because you are free of all your political meetings,” she said.          

The best part of the job, she explains three and a half months in, is the school visits.

“All the school music concerts that we go to, and just being interviewed by school children, is really interesting the questions they come up with. They’re always interested in the chain, what’s that big necklace you’re wearing and why do you wear it and do you live in a palace? Do you have lots of money? What do you do? Why do you do it? They always ask the really basic questions, and you have to think a bit sometimes, but they are totally fascinated,” she explains.

She and Peter Baugh, her husband, have three children and three grandchildren. They met at the University of Cardiff where Peter was studying and they married in New Jersey before moving to live in New Orleans for a few years.

She said: “We were there in the 1960s when segregation when the partitions were being brought down, it was a horrendous time to be there. The hospital I worked in they had separate canteens, we were part of all of that, I think the fact that I worked in a private hospital, really made me appreciate and be passionate about our NHS.

“So a lot of those earlier years have seen, the way they were because the colour of the skin, and you could only get healthcare if you were rich, two things that have affected me greatly.”

She started working at Altrincham General Hospital in 1987 as a physiotherapist and has worked there ever since.

Her line of work has informed the organisations picked as her Mayoral charities. One of these is the Stroke Association. She often asks people during speeches and meetings to go and get their blood pressure checked. A few weeks after one such meeting, a person e-mailed her to say they had their blood pressure checked and it was dangerously high. They had never even thought of getting it checked, the e-mailer told her. 

“So it’s highlighting the charities for that year and making people aware, so you hope people will understand what they do and support them,” she said.

The other charities are Parkinsons UK and Trafford carers’ centre, a small group that is part of the stroke association and concentrates on social activities.

One of her main priorities this year will be to highlight the importance of voluntary organisations, and the work, of staff in the area’s schools.

“I think we need to work to strengthen communities and there has never been a more important time to do that. My reception will be for appreciation of arts organisations in October, and in January parks and open spaces. It will be dedicated to friends groups for parks, people who are passionate about open spaces and retaining them,” she added.

Councillor Baugh, as well as being a Parliamentary candidate in 1997 and 2001, served briefly when Labour controlled the Council between 1996 and 2002.

Talking about the period of Labour control, she said: “There were many achievements that we rightly felt proud of, like the work we did at the art house centres. We worked really hard to get the Imperial War Museum in Trafford which is a major tourist attraction and of course developing our friends groups for parks.”

She and her husband have lived in Trafford for 43 years, which has led to a significant attachment to the borough.

“The voluntary organisations I think that’s where you feel most humble you just don’t realise how many organisations there are in Trafford, how many people are working full time, have families, but give up their time to volunteer,” she said.

It is easy to make a difference if you have time to give, she notes: “All you need to do is get involved with local voluntary organisations in your community, and what’s happening within the community and speak out and try to improve your own area.”

Panic gripped parts of England, but thankfully the Borough of Trafford was largely unaffected by last month month’s rioting.

“We had a few minor skirmishes but nothing major in Trafford.”

She said what stood out most was the courage shown by the father of one of three men killed in Birmingham.

“Let’s hope that the events of the past few weeks will make people think very clearly about how they want their communities to be in the future and will lead more people to support their communities and encourage.”

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