“Why would you stand again?”

Bonkers? You have nothing better to do? What’s the point? Don’t you feel that your efforts are worthless? I often wonder whether standing again, literally after being elected 12 months ago, sounds “sane”. It feels like only yesterday I wrote to readers of the Liberal Democrat Voice to introduce myself as a candidate in the May 2022 Local Elections. I wanted to share my story, challenge some of the stereotypes and prove that only the sky’s the limit if we passionately believe in something. This is why I was delighted to get elected and overall, I am enjoying every minute of being able to serve you as your local councillor.

The national and international political landscape is not helping; the war in Ukraine, cost of living crisis, sky-rocketing inflation. Who would have thought that 12 months later, members of the Conservative Party would have selected their third Prime Minister? Has much changed? Not in my opinion. Is this why some many people are fed up with the Government, political status-quo and feel completely disengaged?

Having said that, it is still so important to remain part of the democratic process. It really feels like I have achieved a lot since May. I helped to run two Residents Forums, meeting many individuals living in our community gave me an opportunity to listen more and be better connected, improving my ability to make a difference. I have also helped to set up other events, such as for Parliament Week and for International Migrants’ Day. I love being proactive and making things happen; from identifying funding to pay for English classes and enrichment activities for Ukrainian refugees to building strong working relationships with schools and businesses, doing everything I can to get the best for our town.

I have met with Council Officers to progress key local issues including issues with planning policy, the regeneration of Welwyn Garden City and the urgent need to improve local support for victims of domestic violence. I was truly privileged to be asked to lead an assembly at a local Primary School and to help deliver community celebrations in other areas of our Borough, including Polish Heritage Day and Ukrainian Independence Day, which was attended by over 100 people.

I am not writing any of this to “show-off”. I am not sharing my still limited experience as a councillor, to sound arrogant but to demonstrate that anything is possible if we fully immerse ourselves into issues and topics, which are close to our hearts.

Moreover, I strongly believe that we have to stick to being honest, genuine and authentic. Voters, residents’ feel it when we are open and transparent.

What else has been absolutely critical? Trying to build, where possible, good, fruitful and productive relationships with members of the community, local key stakeholders and the Council staff. Furthermore, challenging robustly some of the Council’s processes in a constructive and diplomatic way, can also help us “win” people. Finally, a bit of enthusiasm, energy and often a simple smile can really “move mountains”. Let’s hope that my journey, which has only begun, will continue and I will be able to deliver a lot more for residents of Welwyn Hatfield!

* Michal Siewniak is a Lib Dem activist and councillor for Handside ward, Welwyn Hatfield.

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