Tag Archives: councillors

Faith, spirituality and the role of a Councillor

Only a week or so ago, I sat down at our Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council Annual Meeting. I sat thinking whether I did the right thing. I sat wondering whether, after a 6 year gap, it was the right decision to stand again. One of the Labour Councillors, a really decent guy, said to me: “Michal, you’ve done it before. You really wanted to do it again? You are crazy”. There were a few moments before the meeting, when I was reflecting on sacrifices that many of the Cllrs have to make. Most of us have to work, full or part-time. There are plenty of evening meetings and our presence at home, or lack of it, will be felt. In my case, with 3 school-aged daughters, my conscience was searching for an answer for this question. The beginning of the meeting was really powerful. The Full Council meeting is the only meeting of the Annual Calendar which begins with the prayer. A short prayer, read out at the beginning of the meeting, had such a huge impact on me. I felt once again a “calling” to public life and that I am not alone in fulfilling my duties as a Councillor. Moreover, our prayer reminded me about my most important part of my role as a Councillor; being at the service of others.

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Why did I decide to stand?

A lot of people think that I am mad. A lot of people think that politics, even at the local level, has never been more toxic.

Those who decide to stand, often do it for a number of different reasons. I strongly feel that being a Councillor is not like a vocation; it is a vocation. You do it, because you believe in it, you feel a sense of civic duty. Most of the time, you want to make a difference and improve your local community.

Standing is never easy. There are a lot of barriers and obstacles to overcome. If you want to do it, unless you stand in a super safe seat (do they still exist?), you have to put a lot of hard work into it; casework, leaflet delivery and canvassing, which I personally absolutely love! Door-knocking gives me a great joy, even when I don’t get a warm reception on the doorstep. Standing, whilst being a “foreigner” is probably even harder. As soon as I open my mouth, people know that I am not necessarily very “local”. This, in all honesty, doesn’t bother me too much; I will never judge someone based on their accent or the colour of their passport.

It is a wonderful feeling and more importantly a huge privilege to REPRESENT a particular area and a particular community. Moreover, being elected, at the local or national level, means being at the SERVICE for other people.

As I said before in many of my previous articles, I absolutely love the civic process; I enjoy listening, talking and working with people. This will never change, even if my circumstances do. Speaking to residents on regular basis gives me a fantastic opportunity to find out how people feel about politics at the local and national level. It worries me hugely that so many individuals that I’ve encountered feel deflated and disheartened. Some are not planning to vote. The sense of political desperation and political apathy is felt throughout the country.

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Councillor abuse on social media – what can we do about it?

Social media is the expression of all of us. Collectively and individually. Even if people don’t participate in it, its impacts cannot be ignored.

Social media is all of us on the internet, on phones, laptops, smart speakers and an ever growing number of devices. It is almost as everyday as conversation.

Except social media is not like conversation. Any abuse in conversation is usually sporadic. On social media it can be relentless. This commentary comes from someone who has engaged with online communication since the late 1980s. I get abuse as a councillor but not as much as some others. The deputy leader of my council has just resigned citing online abuse.

The question for all of us in public life is how we cope with the flack and the abuse. And can we limit it?

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An opinion piece

Both the Tories and Labour have a dominant elected represented presence across the UK on many different bodies. Because of their current dominance, people almost expect that they should be represented. Such prevalence has allowed some poor performance, by these parties, to be masked/accepted as the public find it difficult to see beyond, what has become, their own basic political norms.

The Lib Dems message is not being heard. We live in a liberal country that has liberal values, a liberal outlook on life and politics, and there is one real party that represents those values – the Liberal Democrats. We can’t get aligned with these dominate traits that the voters live by. You do have to ask the question why?

I am not going to go off on some socio-political anthropologically discussion, simply as I am not qualified to do so. But I do want to look at why we are not being heard or are more relevant across the country.

There are many reasons – not enough reach in the ethnic minority’s communities – yes OK, we have rightly supported more women candidates in the party for internal and external positions (although I would say where we have replaced white middle-class men, in most cases, with white middle-class women and not women who are care workers, single mothers, from working-class families etc.), we don’t have any traction in urban housing estates and so on.

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Setting up a Network of Experience

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKWe have so many people in the party that have held office of one sort or another over the years. We must make sure that we find a way of retaining their expertise and at the same time give them the support that they need.

I have been thinking about setting up this new network for sometime but I think now, more than ever, it is the right time to do it. For too long many elected members who have lost their seats feel that their contribution to the party hasn’t been properly appreciated.

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Opinion: Can anyone explain the Lib Dem obsession with potholes?

Ruwan pot holingI read August’s AdLib today with much dismay. I wonder how many of us have found ourselves squatting beside a hole in the road, posing for a photograph, and subsequently pondered on why we weren’t voted in?

I completely understand the rationale of acknowledging local priorities and the important safety considerations of potholed roads, but are we getting our priorities right when we establish major campaigns over such mind-numbing issues?

Surely the focus on these little concerns, at the expense of far more important and life-altering policies, only diminishes LibDems in the perceptions of potential voters?

Do we really want to be viewed as pettifogging obsessives about the depth of tarmac when essential services such as schools, health, housing and social care are under threat?

Although I am repeatedly advised by the pundits and pollsters “This is what the focus groups are talking about” I do not find that this is the first concern on the electorate’s lips when we talk on the doorstep. Voters want to know about drops in local education standards, the lack of public transport to enable rural employment and, increasingly, the loathed bedroom tax.

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Opinion: Pickles pensions off councillors

The winning Kendal Town CouncillorsSome of you may have heard this brief anecdote before.

Some years ago a civil servant appeared in St Albans attempting to sell some ‘new’ ideas from the Government of the day about local government. He stood up before various district and county councillors in Hertfordshire and announced that ‘in future the Government wanted councillors to represent the people to the town hall rather than the other way round.’

He said it without malice or irony and as a result was not lynched – turning up some years later to dismantle the Audit Commission.

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