A LONG-SERVING Halesowen councillor is leaving the ward she has served for almost two decades to stand as a candidate in Stourbridge.

Conservative councillor Karen Shakespeare has represented Halesowen North for 19 years.

But she said since her links with Halesowen have dwindled she decided to bid farewell to take the chance to stand for the Tories in the Norton ward in May's local elections.

She will stand against Heather Rogers, who had been a Tory councillor in the Norton ward since 2007, but became an independent councillor in 2017.

Karen, aged 61, who has lived in Pedmore for 23 years, said: "I grew up in Halesowen, but since my dad died and friends and family moved away, I'm not in the area as often as I used to be.

"I used to be in the ward every single day and to be an effective councillor you have to be in the area all the time.

"I still absolutely love what I do with a passion.

"I'm always working, as a cabinet member for the environment I have worked for people across the borough.

"I have worked for so many people and have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Halesowen - it's been an interesting and enjoyable 19 years.

"I feel I've got a lot to offer the residents of Norton, as I have a lot of experience and love helping solve people's problems."

Karen, who is married to Pedmore and Stourbridge East councillor Les Jones, works as office manager for Mike Woods MP at his Wordsley office. She is the local Conservative party's shadow cabinet member for the environment.

Fellow Halesowen North councillor Hilary Bills, who represents Labour, said she would "miss" Karen. The pair have worked together in the ward for the last seven years.

Hilary said: "We have worked really well together and I wish her well for the future.

"We have worked together for the residents and put our political differences aside."

Karen is also a trustee for Mary Steven's Hospice. Also standing in the Norton ward are Mark Binnersley for the Green Party, David Powell for UKIP, Elaine Sheppard for the Liberal Democrat Focus Team and Andrew Tromans for Labour.

Peter Dobb will stand for the Conservatives in the Halesowen North seat, going up against Gabby Coverson for UKIP, Stuart Henley for the Black Country Party and Parmjit Sahota for Labour.