I was elected to represent Ross East on the Town Council in 2018 and Herefordshire Council in 2019. I’m glad I did this and thought I’d share my experiences.
A collapsed wall had been an eyesore for years so I persuaded Highways to pay for materials if I found volunteers rebuild it. This didn’t work so I found a contractor instead. By rebuilding to half the height I could still get the work done.
The Town & Country Trail was a mess so I asked Balfour Beatty for a price to repair it. A grant then came up so I got the work done, though it took 2 goes to get it right!
I managed to prove to the Council that roads in Ross were unfairly neglected so we were given extra money to help. However Tudor Rise was in such a poor state the contractor spent most of the budget there, cancelling repairs to other roads. I successfully argued this was wrong so those roads have now been fixed too.
By pushing the planning department I also managed to get funding from the new development at Hildersley for a pedestrian crossing on the A40.
These projects needed no specialist knowledge, just persistence, so anyone could do it.
Because of my previous Local Government experience I also got involved in more complex things like waste strategy, Model Farm Enterprise Zone and changing the way Balfour Beatty are managed. All Councillors have the opportunity to do this for services in which they have an interest or experience, but it’s not compulsory.
I was elected as a LibDem but became an Independent last year because I felt party politics was getting in the way of common sense. For example LibDems were offered a Cabinet seat but declined because they didn’t want to be seen helping political rivals.
What have I learned in the last 4 years?
The Town Council is less political than the County and meetings are evening rather than daytime. With 18 Councillors rather than 53 it’s less daunting too.
You can’t be an expert in everything a Council does, but make residents’ priorities yours and this will help you focus.
Be persistent - if something needs doing find the right person and make a business case. There’s a good chance one-off money can be found.
National party politics is not helpful in local government but if you decide to be an Independent there is still support at www.i4h.org
l There are a couple of vacancies on Ross Town Council so why not apply for one to get a taste of life as a Councillor?
Thanks to the voters who put their faith in me, I hope you feel your trust has been repaid.