Life wasn’t easy growing up. Everything we had, we worked for.
I was born in the Punjab and moved to Redbridge with my parents when I was 7 years old.
I had a simple upbringing, my mum worked from home sewing ties and I along with my siblings completed the workforce at home whilst my Dad worked at a tin factory.
We were an ordinary immigrant family with a story familiar to many other Ilford residents and like many of my neighbours, moving here changed our lives for the better.
Ilford has given me and my family everything I have.
We were a working class family in a working class neighbourhood. We didn’t have privileges or contacts. We had to do it ourselves, the hard way.
We moved here with very little and found a welcoming home, an excellent education, job opportunities for my parents and most importantly, we found a better future for our family.
I believe we all deserve the same opportunities I was given at just 7 years old. Every family should feel confident that their children will get the best education at their local school.
Everyone of working age should feel optimistic about their future careers and we should all feel safe and welcome in the country we call home.
I learnt the value of hard work helping my mother sew neck ties with my brother and sister after school and watching my Dad go off to the factory early every morning.
I pushed myself and had a good career teaching computer security before opening my own children’s nurseries with my wife in 2006.
I was content raising my children and running our new family business, but I couldn’t help but look around me and see the inequality and unfair society we were a part of.
I have always been part of an active community and I saw that community suffering from stagnating wages, underfunded vital services and a welfare system which was at breaking point.
Public service, or Seva, Sikhs call it, has always been a core principle in my family.
Some of my earliest memories are of helping my parents serve food to the homeless at our local Gurdwara – something we did every week throughout my childhood.
So, when I saw the damaging local Conservative policies, shutting down our libraries, underfunding adult social care, and skyrocketing levels of homelessness, I knew I had to act.
Since I was elected, first as a councillor and then as leader of the Labour Group, I have committed myself completely to serving my home and my community.
I put the work in and helped transform the area, investing in infrastructure, improving services, and leading Redbridge to become one of the most cost-effective councils in the UK.
When I first became leader of the Labour Group in November 2011, Redbridge was a Conservative stronghold and Ilford South had Conservative and LibDem councillors.
By 2014 Labour had taken control of the Council for the first time in its history.
By 2018 we had all but wiped out the opposition, winning 51 out of 63 seats – with Ilford South now a Tory free zone and no Liberal Democrats in the borough.
Born in the Punjab
Started Primary School
Worked at McKenzie and Tapp tin manufacturers Romford
Became a Councillor in Mayfield ward
Won the election for Labour
Arrived in Ilford
Worked at the sorting office in Angel, Romford
Opened first children’s nursery
Became the leader of the Council
Drove out every Tory Councillor from Ilford South
Get in touch with Jas Athwal
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