Notes from a new Councillor: Taking Action

Many residents have contacted me with road concerns. I was warned before the election that roads would take a lot of my time! The list goes on and on: potholes, drainage, dips in the road, worn surfaces, pavements, kerbs, broken bollards, street-lighting, etc.

Is it worth my time? Yes. Getting a pavement cleared so that a mum with a pushchair can get through makes a difference. Getting a cycle route tidied of overgrown hedge keeps cyclists on the cycle path and safe. Working for new street-lighting protects young people as they walk home from school in the winter months. Improving drainage means people can access a recreation ground rather than walking through standing water to the gate.

I think I underestimated how much little things can have a big impact on people’s lives. And how, by sending an email or meeting with a county officer on a particular issue, not only will it improve the situation for one resident, but for many.

One reason I got involved in politics a couple of years ago was because of inequality. I think what I like most about being a county councillor is giving local people a voice. Listening to their concerns, hearing their concerns, and representing them. We live in an unequal world at many levels, socially, economically, educationally, opportunity.

One way of combatting that inequality is by making sure all voices are heard. Often those who shout the loudest, those who are wealthy, those who have time to make a ruckus, are the ones who get heard. But being a councillor means hearing all voices. And if I have to choose priorities, I will always make sure it is those who do not have a voice who are heard first.

* Kirsten Johnson is an Oxfordshire County Councillor and Day Editor for Lib Dem Voice. She stood as the Parliamentary Candidate for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election.

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10 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 16th Aug '17 - 4:50pm

    Good on yer.

  • David Evershed 16th Aug '17 - 5:41pm

    Potholes are re biggest local issue in North Bucks.

    Cars get damages wheels and damaged suspension. We used to be able to claim off the council insurance but no longer – now we have to claim off our own insurance.

    Cars have been known to swerve across the road when hitting the potholes. We don’t have cycle tracks so cyclists are in danger of being thrown off their bikes when they hit one.

    Potholes are particularly dangerous when it has been raining. They become invisible to spot when filled with water.

    Repairs are just patch filled which makes them susceptible to frost and ice lifting the edges during the following winter. The need for proper relaying of our roads is a massive problem and been put off by successive administrations.

    The Dept of Transport statistics show that 89% of travel is by road and the most common means of travel is by car for all age, gender, and income groups. Three times
    more goods are moved by roads than by water and rail combined.
    (https://www.licencebureau.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/road-use-statistics.pdf)

    But spending on roads has been neglected and contributes to the low productivity in this country through congestion at out of date junctions – plus the potholes.

  • David Evershed. Given that there are at least five food banks in Buckinghamshire I would have that social justice in a rich county was infinitely more important and pressing than saying pot holes are the biggest local issue.

  • Stephen Booth 17th Aug '17 - 9:38am

    When I became a councillor back in the early 1980s it drove me mad that it needed my intervention to solve relatively simple problems that residents had already taken up with the council but had been ignored. I often tested the council’s response by not saying who I was when I phoned. Once it was established I was a councillor officers would jump. Alas, too many of us have become public social workers and counsellors (notice the subtle difference in spelling) for a vast raft of people with problems we actually can’t solve through being a local councillor.

    There’s no question that Lib Dems are usually hard-working local councillors who are ready to take action on behalf of their residents. BUT and it’s a big BUT, it doesn’t mean votes at a general election. One of our county councillor got back with a near 1000 vote majority this year on the back of his massive casework file; in the meantime we lose our deposit at the general election despite a strong candidate. We have to get back out there campaigning on national issues. Potholes and broken pavements bring votes locally but not nationally. How many of you out there have heard that refrain on the doorstep, “We’ll vote for you locally but not nationally because you don’t stand a chance”?

  • David Evershed 17th Aug '17 - 12:15pm

    David Raw

    Council surveys of Bucks people consistently show potholes to be their top priority by far.

    Central government and local government have responded with small increases in spending on roads but not sufficient to stop the overall decline.

  • @ David Evershed ” Council surveys of Bucks people consistently show potholes to be their top priority by far.”

    And does that blinkered view not surprise me ? Doesn’t it bother them that there are increasing needs of social care for the elderly and growing inequalities in Buckinghamshire made visible by the rise in food banks. ?

  • Kirsten Johnson 17th Aug '17 - 2:32pm

    Hi all, thank you for engaging and reading. Simon, I have just posted info on the committee structure question on the previous blog.

    I am told that when utility companies make repairs in the road, their repair has last two years, so there is no incentive to make it a better, more long-term repair. I think this is an issue that needs addressing.

    I agree that inequality and rising use of food banks are highly important. Unfortunately, going door to door, it is potholes that keep coming up. However, as a PPC I engaged with local groups running food bank schemes and I am very aware of the inequality in my county division. I think income inequality, and wealth distribution, are fundamental problems permeating through society which need real solutions. Hopefully Lib Dem policy can give leadership in these areas with radical proposals to tackle inequality.

  • Julian Heather 17th Aug '17 - 3:23pm

    Good for you, Kirsten ! Keep up the good work. That’s what councillors are for – dealing with local issues raised by local people.

    Just ignore David Raw’s churlish comments.

  • @ Julian Heather. My comments were addressed to David Evershed about the issue of pot holes in Buckinghamshire – and not to the good work of Kristen. On reflection, you may think that your comments were not only ill informed but churlish.

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