The Inside the Council column with Labour councillor Roisin Cavanagh

Councillor Roisin Cavanagh.
Councillor Roisin Cavanagh.

As a newly elected councillor you are in shell shock.

With an amazing campaign team of activists you have pounded the streets, knocked on doors, spoken to as many people as possible and built relationships with community groups and local businesses.

Surreal: Halifax Town Hall security guards call you councillor as they welcome you.

Surreal: Halifax Town Hall security guards call you councillor as they welcome you.

And you just hope that you’ve done enough for people to believe in your ability to be a good councillor and put a cross next to your name. Suddenly you’re there in the council chamber with your name on the seat.

The security guards welcome you into Halifax Town Hall with a ‘good morning councillor’ and it all seems fairly surreal.

Once you’re over the initial shock you’re in the thick of an excellent councillor training programme covering a massive amount of information including how to scrutinise council decisions, our role as corporate parents to all the looked after children in Calderdale, and how to embed equality in everything we do.

Then you get a bit of head space and you start to think about your own ward, in my case Luddendenfoot.

And so I started to think (alongside the dedicated Councillors Jane Scullion and Scott Patient) how can I best support people, voluntary and community sector groups, farmers, businesses and schools in the Luddendenfoot Ward?

What are the best mechanisms to understand people’s needs and wants?

Where and what are the best places, times and locations I can listen to people’s concerns and ideas.

Listening is a much under-rated skill and in the current times of division and where there is a lack of trust in politicians, it is more important than ever to really listen to the needs and desires of people in the community.

In the run up to the election, I listened a lot.

Whether it was on the doorstep in Mytholmroyd, in a community coffee morning in Midgley or a mum and tots group in Luddendenfoot, I listened.

What I heard was that families with two incomes are fed up of worrying about money and struggling to get by. I heard that people of different ages are feeling lonely and are looking for activities and friends to help curb their isolation.

I heard that many ex-military feel as if they have been forgotten about, and have not been supported to re-establish their lives. I heard that lots of people are experiencing mental health issues and that they feel that the intensive support that once was, no longer exists.

I also heard that despite all these issues there continues to be incredible community resilience and spirit. Luddendenfoot Ward is literally full to the brim of people working hard to help make the community a better place to live for everyone.

I hope that over the next year having three Labour councillors and an energetic group of town councillors really listening will go a long way to help people feel that they are represented and supported.