Monday, 9 July 2007
Why be a local councillor?
"Why on earth do I do this?" were my thoughts last week when the latest cabinet agenda arrived in my pigeon hole. A 354 page long document covering everything from food hygiene to balanced budgets to how people might ever find a home. That's a lot of reading.
The council cabinet is a mixed bunch; Ray and Nick are farmers but David is a university lecturer, Mark helps run one of the local hospitals and Sue is so much more than a retired nurse, Simon does all this whilst still running his business and Daphne was a hard working councillor when I was still at teenage discos.
We had the meeting today. The agenda is laced with decisions that aren't really decisions at all but things we have to do to comply with the latest government directives. A lot of paperwork and thought about how the decisions in Westminster affect us on the ground. Every one of those Westmister downloads costs money here too.
In between those there are real decisions, things to debate to listen to. We listened and learnt. Total time spent in council offices 7 hours.
Tonight I went to two local parish council meetings. From road safety to affordable housing, from flytipping and grass cutting to the white paper on planning issues and putting the roof back on the community hall, these are local issues but important issues to the people who live here.
Tomorrow I will return to council offices for another session looking forward to the year ahead. I've just finished page turning the budget documents in preparation. I'm glad I've had all those years in banking.
This Thursday and Friday I will be attending interviews for a new senior council officer - many of the existing staff are coming up for retirement at the same time. We need to get the right person to get the job done.
Not every local councillor can give the same time to their role - but that is respected. It's more important that the councillors are a mixture of different people with different interests, and we all bring those interests. So like many local councillors I give my time this week willingly.