On Hard Working Councillors

Mark Collins, Lib Dem activist extraordinaire, has taken exception to Steampunk’s assertion that only Green councillors work hard. I find myself in the alarming position of agreeing with much of what Mark says about hard working councillors, although I don’t agree with his criticism of Jason Kitcat when he asks: “I still do not understand why Cllr Kitcat and others refuse to hold surgeries.”  There are many ways of engaging with one’s constituents, and surgeries are just on.  Some of the most diligent ward councillors never hold surgeries, but are accessible throughout the week.  It could be said that by holding monthly surgeries, some councillors are restricting their availability.  It is clear that Jason Kitcat is one of the most active and accessible councillors in Brighton and Hove, and Regency ward electors will return him with a sizeable majority. 

Sven Rufus provides a perfectly reasonable response: “Just quickly on the comment about not holding ward surgeries – in Regency we did, and over the space of 6 months at a cost of £30 a time to the Council, only one person came, and that was someone I had already been in touch with who just happened to be passing. No-one other than journalists and political opponents has ever raised concerns with me (and I think I speak for Jason too) about us not holding ward surgeries. We are there at the end of the phone, email, letter and will happily meet with people in person if requested to do so. I’m certainly not convinced that £180 over 6 months to be able to say ‘Nice to put a face to a name’ represents good value.”  Well said, Sven.

Mark Collins is a fan of Paul Elgood.  He says that Paul works extremely hard. “Lib Dems can’t afford not to. Unlike the Tories and Labour there is no such thing as a safe Lib Dem seat.”  I think after May’s local elections in Brighton and Hove, Mark may need to revise that to “there is no such thing as a Lib Dem seat”.

This is where I agree with Mark: “There are Labour and Tory Councillors who knock spots off of others. Dawn Barnett is a hard working Councillor for Hangleton and Knoll. I recall a time when my parents who live in the Ward were having trouble with some god awful road works in the street. An email was sent at 10:30pm and at 9:30am the next day, Dawn was on their doorstep, and by 4pm the next day the works were finished.” 

I don’t think Mark is too off the mark when he says of Dawn Barnett: “She works hard, and has nothing to fear from a ‘return’ by Brian Fitch.”

I think that Marks’s insight into the Les Hamilton Dynasty is worth repeating in full: “Let us also recall that Les Hamilton Snr had a street named after him, by request of local residents (and a bus). He was a truly exceptional councillor, and we can all take lessons from his example. Les Jnr appears to have taken after his father’s spirit as a hard working fighter for his community. Although I’m sorry to say Les, that you have a little way to go to convince my ever combative Nan that you are as good as your father. I’m sure you are.”

My view? There are hard working councillors in all parties (even the Lib Dems!).  I have high regard for the hours and hours most put in to serving their constituents and the City as a whole. I genuinely believe that they deserve better recognition and better financial reward.  If I could redesign the system, I would cut the number of councillors and pay them much more.

3 Responses

  1. I agree with Sven on surgeries. We ran several different locations over periods of up to a year in my ward, which has four or five distinct areas (Kemp Town, Craven Vale, Bristol Estate, Whitehawk & Manor Farm) and the turnout was very, very low. This contrasted with quite high levels of turnout for the then MPs surgeries, which I covered from time to time. If no-one attends you have to wonder if it is worth the cost of room hire. Like Sven I have met residents by arrangement many many times – at a time and location that suits them.
    My ward has a high number of resident and community groups – there were two meetings tonight and there are two more this week, so those who want to see us in the community can, though it’s impossible to be in two places at once!
    I think people do expect cllrs to be more available and responsive than just a monthly surgery, and I try to respond to all calls and emails within 24 hrs if not immediately, which is easier with modern technology like BlackBerries. Yes, they are costly, but it means cllrs can reply to emails anywhere at any time.

  2. Hey, I never actually said “only Green councillors work hard” – I just said they work harder : )

    Sorry if I over-generalised.

    And I too agree with Mark when he suggests that the council could do with some fresh blood to er.. cleanse the stables and remove the dead wood.

    Although I don’t exactly wish him luck, it would be ironic if on May 6th there was still one Lib Dem on the council, but this time in Central Hove not Brunswick & Adelaide. I don’t think for one minute that Elgood will let that happen though, it’s bound to be all-hands-on-deck in his ward as the campaign heats up.

    • Would it therefore be right to conclude that the Greens aren’t running a serious campaign in Central Hove?

      Looking at the figures from last time, it could be regarded as lower hanging fruit than Brunswick – and apples in the mud compared with Rottingdean.

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