Congratulations to the winners and nominees of the Andover College Achievers' Awards, where I had the privilege to be their guest speaker earlier this week.
The evening was full of inspirational stories where students have worked exceptionally hard to reach their full potential, often in the face of adversity.
Not only did Andover College achieve a 100% pass rate for the second year in succession, their A-Level value added scores put them in the top 5% of colleges in the country.
That's what I call an aspirational Andover!
Full text of my speech
"Good evening everyone.
My name is Phil North and I'm the Leader of Test Valley Borough Council.
It is an honour to be here tonight to celebrate your outstanding achievements. So to all the nominees, a very well done and congratulations on your hard work.
Although I'm now in my early 30's, which will seem a very long way away for some of you. Young, elected politicians are quite rare.
My journey started when I was at college. Studying Government & Politics at Peter Symmonds College in Winchester. I spent two great years of my life there. This was long before Andover College achieved a better pass rate than Peter Symmonds, as it has done for the last two years.
My teachers were inspirational – and after studying all the political ideologies, I joined the Conservative Party. I don't want to turn this into a party political broadcast but I joined because I believe in individual liberty, equality of opportunity, aspiration and low taxes – ensuring people get to keep more of their well-earned money.
After graduating from University in 2006, I decided I wanted to stand to become a Councillor. Due to my age and inexperience I was asked to stand in a ward that my party were not always strong in. The most deprived ward in the Borough. It is what's known in the trade as a paper candidate. We'll put you up, we don't expect you to win but if you work hard we might consider you for a safer seat at the next election.
But I did win. I didn't want to wait four more years. I won because I worked extraordinarily hard, knocking on every door in the ward and telling people what I was doing to improve their area.
And at the age of 21, I became the youngest ever councillor on Test Valley.
And I love it.
It's different to any other job you could possibly have. Your only boss is the people that put you there, the electorate – and it is only them that you need to answer.
I have another full-time job too because being a Councillor doesn't pay the bills, so I still get told what to do, but it's not so bad.
In the last decade I have progressed through the Council – as Vice-Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee, Chairman of the Budget Panel and as Cabinet Member for the Corporate Portfolio.
There have been knock-backs along the way. In 2015, I decided to apply to become the Conservative candidate for Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner. This included a gruelling interview in Conservative Central Headquarters – and a selection meeting in front of 200-odd people. I got down to the final two but ultimately fell at the final hurdle.
But I picked myself up and now, thanks to my colleagues that elected me this year, I became the Leader of the Council.
I'm still the youngest Councillor bar none so to persuade my colleagues that the young whipper-snapper should be their leader was a tough job. But I managed it, not least because of my hard work over the last 10 years.
Many of you will be too young to remember it but when New Labour swept to power in 1997. Tony Blair famously summed up his manifesto in 3 words. Education, Education, Education.
My ambition for Andover can also be summed up in 3 words. Aspiration, Aspiration, Aspiration.
But what do I mean by that?
Well I want to lead a Council that's bold and aspirational. There's a fine example of it outside this very building with a brand new, purpose built Leisure Centre being constructed, and with the success of The Lights Theatre and Andover College it has the potential to become a thriving cultural quarter for the town.
The Andover Vision that I currently chair, has bold plans to enhance our great green environment, improve our town centre and for Andover to become a more connected community. And the thread weaving through all of that is to boost aspiration.
I also want every individual that grows up in Andover to reach their full potential. And often that doesn't happen.
Your parents have undoubtedly supported you through your GCSEs, and now through your post 16 studies, be that A-Levels, BTECs or any of the many other Professionally recognised programmes that are offered by the college and parents will, I'm sure continue to support you if you want to go on to Higher Education.
But there are some parents, let's be blunt about it who encourage their children to get full-time jobs, often low paid and without structured training as soon as possible in life to help contribute to the household income. Earning £200 a week sounds great when you're 18 but when you're in your mid-twenties and want to start a family or get a mortgage it can be impossible. By then many of the doors that were open to you in your late teens have been closed because you haven't walked through them.
So I want to play my part in ensuring our young people and their parents get the best advice possible before it is too late so that they can make choices about things like 'Apprenticeships' with forward looking businesses, 'Higher Apprenticeships' and now even 'Degree Apprenticeships' as well as full time college routes to BTECs and A Levels and University for those who want that. That's what I mean by an aspirational Andover, enabling each and every person to reach their full potential.
But let's be frank about this.
Your parents can help, educational establishments can help, businesses can help, local authorities can help. But it is down to you to take ownership of your future career path. No-one will do it for you.
Sometimes I get sleepless nights thinking about a Test Valley problem I have to solve, sometimes I get nervous talking to large audiences, no matter how friendly they are but I do something that I enjoy doing. Serving the public.
That is my number one piece of advice for you. Do something you love.
You are more likely to work had, deal with the knock backs and ultimately succeed if you do something you enjoy.
Second, believe in yourself. That's not something I have always found easy – I struggle with confidence just like anyone else, I'm only human. That looking around thinking, well that person who does the same job is excellent, I can't match them. But I've learnt to believe I can do it. I would never have applied to become the Conservative candidate for Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, or put myself forward to my colleagues for leader of the Council if I didn't believe I could do it.
Third, keep learning. I've been on the council for a decade but I'm still learning – and I'd like to think this isn't the peak of my career. I want to be leader of the council for many, many years but I'm still in the same position as all of you, with my best years ahead of me. Hopefully.
Lastly, be tenacious. Be determined. Be persistent. You won't get where you want to go overnight but through tireless, resolute hard-work you will get there.
Click Here to Contact Phil
If you have any ideas, issues or concerns please feel free to contact me.
Address: Cllr Phil North, C/O TVBC, Beech Hurst, Weyhill Road, Andover, Hampshire, SP10 3AJ.
Call: 077324 23023