Week 1 as a County Councillor

Too many devices
Too many devices

Thank you to everyone who voted for me. Thank you to everyone who welcomed us on your doorstep. Thank you to everyone who voted Labour. Thank you to everyone who voted at all. Democracy is so vital to our way of life (and this is why I am very upset about the new law in the Queen’s speech that will require voters to produce photo ID). Whoever you voted for, I will do my best to represent you and to help if you need it. As I said at the election, my priorities are to

1. protect the environment

2. support the most vulnerable in our society

3. strengthen our local communities.

Hold me to account!

So what is it like being a county councillor so far?

It seemed touch and go on Friday since lots of people had voted green, so it was a genuine surprise to find I had won. Sadly I couldn’t meet up with the wonderful people who helped in my campaign but hopefully we can do that in a few weeks time so I can say thank you to them properly.

Saturday morning we had an AGM for the new Labour Group. Everyone seemed friendly and supportive. I am pleased to say it only took an hour which was good as I got to clean the house and plant my beans! I have since taken on being group secretary and treasurer.. picking up where my predecessor, Liz Plant, left off!

Monday was induction at County Hall. I was welcomed by some very helpful staff who showed me around the lovely building, which manages to feel homely and regal at the same time. I was given and new computer and a new phone. I am not pleased about this. I am lucky since I already have a perfectly good computer and (second hand) phone plus a computer from my employer, and it is simply confusing and wasteful to have too many. I realise that we are given this kit to ensure that residents’ data is protected, but I think it is time for the tech companies to find a better way of achieving this, since new computers and phones have a significant environmental impact and cost to the local tax payers. You should only be given a computer or phone if you need it and want it. I was allowed to turn down the option for a free laptop bag!

Last week and next week we have online induction. I am pleased I have been a Borough Councillor as now I know what I need to learn. I am going to hold off getting involved in too many issues until next week when I have been to all the trainings.

However two things have come up this week.

First: Lady Bay School: I went into the School last week and spoke to the Head. I now understand just what a problem the listed status of the building and the walls creates for the School. I have since spoken to someone who knows about heritage rules who is going to look into this further.

Second: Metropolitan Housing (really a Borough issue). You may have seen in the Evening Post that leaseholders in the Alford Road maisonettes have been handed £20,000 bills for building repairs. This is no way for any building management company to behave, let alone a housing association. Today I went back to visit a resident on the Buckfast Way estate where there is a lot of urgent work required on most of the buildings.

I know many housing associations are excellent, and have a proud history (e.g. Peabody and Guinness Trusts), so it makes me sad to conclude that the problem may lie with the not-for-profit model: housing associations can have short term aims with no real interest in maintaining their buildings for the future. Metropolitan’s board has 5 sub committees, apparently only one of which is involved in building repairs, (and that is the only one involving residents).

This illustrates why we need local accountability: councils provide protection to tenants and have a genuine long term interest in protecting their properties for all local tax payers in an area.

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