Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A week in the life of a councillor - a very personal view

It’s been brought to my attention that another councillor is castigating me for not attending meetings earlier this week, saying that he’s sure people expect their councillors to attend meetings.  All I can say is that meetings are only valuable if we learn something or contribute something to them.
As a council group leader I attend a lot of briefing sessions with senior officers and pass on the information to my group.  At those briefings I can raise the questions that I want to, get answers and discuss them in some detail.  I don’t find it productive to sit through the same briefing being given for other councillors.  I do find it productive to respond to the phone calls and emails from residents with real concerns about their day to day life, and to go out and knock on doors to see whether those concerns are shared by many others.
As it happens, over the past week I've had meetings about transport, about the local library, about inconsiderate parking, about the changes to the electoral registration system which will have a huge impact over the next 3 years, about what’s happening in the surrounding area including the crime figures but also road safety concerns and the problems of the youth & community centre in a neighbouring village, discussions on the impact of some of the savings identified in the Cabinet recommendation on the budget for Stockton Council and whether to oppose any of them or suggest alternatives, plans for the summer event being organised jointly by the parish council and the Egglescliffe Area Residents Association, discussions on the impact of storm surges on sewers that are already at or near capacity, and more.
But much more importantly, in my opinion if not in the opposition councillor’s opinion, I’ve sat with a very frightened, sick relative, holding her hand and trying to bring a little comfort.  I’ve had meetings with health staff and carers.  None of this is a part of being a councillor, but it’s a part of being me.  And I hope it helps me to understand when someone else needs to be somewhere other than where I might have expected them to be.  It certainly helps me to understand when residents contact me with problems relating to sickness and disability.
And now, having said all that, I shall get on with chasing up the repair to the broken manhole, the two consultations that need to be carried out in parts of the ward and following up the problems with disability living allowance for a resident without family to help her.  All in a day's work for a councillor and not a formal meeting to be seen there.

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