Queen's Park councillor made MBE in Birthday Honours

Eleanor Southwood. Picture: Eleanor Southwood

Eleanor Southwood. Picture: Eleanor Southwood - Credit: Archant

Brent's Queen's Park councillor has been recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours.

Cllr Ellie Southwood has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire [MBE] for services to charity and local government. 

"I couldn't be more surprised and delighted," said Cllr Southwood, who is Brent Council's cabinet member for housing and welfare. 

"I found out a little while ago so I had to keep it to myself which is always hard. It's absolutely fantastic."

Perhaps little less known is that Cllr Southwood was chair of the Royal National Institute for Blind People for three years until she stood down in December.

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"While I was chair we really focused on trying to encourage the general public to think differently about the experience of being blind or partially sighted. 

"To not think of it as something that stood in the way of people doing what they wanted to do but encouraging the public to see people for the talents they have and the value rather than the disability."

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Under her guidance the charity launched a See Differently campaign.

"We all see the world differently whether it's about your sight or something else so just trying to break down some of those barriers that make people uncomfortable talking about sight loss or uncomfortable about working with or talking to someone who is blind or partially sighted, so really about allowing folks to be included in everything.

"It was an exciting time, we shifted the charity to focus on diversity because everybody has a different experience when they lose their sight.

"Whether you have always been blind like I have or suddenly lose your sight in your 40s or 50s, everybody has a different experience."

She said her own sight offers "nothing useful". She can see light and dark but not enough to identify objects. 

This has not stood in her way to reach the heights she has within the council. 

"We're a paperless council and everything is electronic now thank goodness. Previous blind councillors have had to have people reading long papers onto tape," she said.

"There are still some challenges as there would be in any job but trying to find ways round.

"It also means I bring a slightly different perspective when we're making decisions.

"I'm passionate about inclusion and improving the ways that the council reaches out to residents from all sorts of backgrounds."  

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