I want to share my impressions and experiences as a new councillor.
I decided to put myself forward after being impressed by the work done by the ward councillors that I knew within the Labour Party.
Comparisons with other councils suggested Calderdale was a well run council with a positive attitude despite the challenges of swingeing Government imposed cuts since 2010.
I felt that I could make a positive difference to the lives of Calderdale residents by becoming a councillor.
I was privileged to be elected by the voters of Todmorden to represent their interests within the council.
I have since been kept busy with casework, training and council meetings.
The council provides training for new and current councillors to ensure we can be effective representatives.
The training is wide ranging but includes looking at the varied role of the councillor-including dealing with queries from ward constituents and sitting on panels scrutinising different areas of Council work.
These include the Children and Young People Panel to which I was appointed.
At our first meeting the highlights were presentations by representatives of the Calderdale Youth Parliament and council and by the Director of Children’s Services.
Generally I have been impressed by the dedication to their roles shown by council staff. Calderdale has an ambition to be the best Borough in the North and my initial impressions are they have every prospect of succeeding. It is easy to be cynical about your local council when you see things that could be done better in your local area. Since I have been a councillor I feel reassured that council staff are competent and are working very hard in challenging circumstances.
The session on our responsibilities as “Corporate Parents” of Calderdale’s children looked after was particularly inspirational and challenged preconceptions.
I am however very sad as a Labour councillor that budget cuts have led to some dedicated staff losing their jobs.
Councils can only function effectively if there a partnership between council staff and councillors but also between the council and other Agencies. The Scrutiny Panel meetings that I have attended do demonstrate a good relationship between the elected councillors and council officers and make it clear that the council works very effectively with outside agencies.
I have joined the council as Labour has gained a majority.
We will be working hard to repay the faith shown in us and will be doing all we can to support the council officers to deliver the best possible services, environment, education and employment prospects for the people of Todmorden and Calderdale.
This is captured by the ambitious plans the Labour Cabinet has just released for our First 100 Days. This sets out a specific pledges against which we can be judged.
There will be things that the council doesn’t get right and you can play your part by bringing any problems to the attention of your local councillors.