A few years ago when launching the End of 9 to 5 concept I realised that to really understand politics I needed to be more involved. Like everything in my professional and personal life if I want to know more about something, I need to do it. Therefore to appreciate the process of elections, policy making and most importantly how issues you and I experience as citizens are dealt with and solved at a local level, I had to get involved. So I embarked on the journey of becoming a councillor and earlier this month was elected as County Councillor for Alcester Division in Warwickshire.
Firstly I must say that the process of getting elected and more recently being part of the council has been a very fulfilling and eye opening experience. Along the way I have met many dedicated, hardworking and interesting people who support local government. From the public servants to the countless volunteers who help to deliver leaflets, run polling stations and count ballot papers! While looking in I, like many, have always had a view on local government from how Parish Councils must be – exacerbated by the lockdown viral video staring Jackie Weaver – to what District and County Council must do. But the reality is so much more positive, enlightening and, for me at least, engaging with my local community.
Before I decided to stand I was always interested in fixing problems and contributing to my local community. I have always felt if everyone takes a small piece of ownership for the greater good we can achieve a lot together. So I have always swept roads, cleared drains and cut grass on public spaces where I have felt they have needed some TLC. Likewise if I have seen a pothole, damage or litter I have either cleaned it up or taken the time to report it. When I moved from a small cottage I was living in for a few years I heard that the villagers were up in arms about the lack of salting the council was doing in the village when it was icy. The council explained that they never salted the roads in or out of the village, as it was not a primary road, and instead had installed salt bins in strategic places. What my fellow neighbours had failed to appreciate is that for years I had, in my dressing gown usually, salted the roads using a shovel and wheelbarrow before going to bed so my ability to drive in the morning wasn’t hindered. What I have found over the years is that most councils are responsive to reports of issues as they can direct resources to getting them fixed. The problem is that generally people don’t take the time to report or raise issues so they can be rectified.
Becoming part of Warwickshire County Council has been so far very positive. I have met some fantastic local community leaders who commit a huge amount of time and effort to local causes, something I feel dutybound over the coming year to shine a light on. Likewise the professionalism, scale and reach of my County Council is also inspiring. I am told that the newness will wear off and soon I will be disillusioned by the processes involved. My answer to that is that it can’t be any worse than the building industry, where a huge proportion of processes are out of your control. But as I have got older, and hopefully wiser, I have realised that time is a useful commodity and quickly forgiven once a solution is found and implemented.
The first big challenge for our county is education. As our new Chairman recently talked about the ability to shape people’s lives and give them the best start begins with a world class education system. Currently we are failing too many people and hence suffering with all the long term effects that brings. If we can dramatically improve our success rate with all members of our society then the social effects will also get better. I am supporting the cabinet in the role of Education & Skills Support so first port of call will be the schools to see how we can support them better.
Anyone looking for a way to give back I would suggest looking at becoming a Councillor. It appears to be a very fulfilling and interesting role.