John's Jottings for December 2001

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

What Have the Last 18 Months Been Like?

People talk about "learning curves", and becoming a local Councillor for the first time is a very big example of a steep learning curve. There is so much to learn about laws, codes of conduct, what already exists/is happening locally, contacts, policies, procedures, upcoming legislation, and a host of other topics that it is bound to take a long time to become anywhere near proficient in even a few of the subject areas the Council covers. I was told by several experienced members that it would take around two years to really get on top of things.

Apart from the Full Council and Committee business there is a whole range of seminars, briefings, meetings of our political group, and sitting on outside bodies (I sit on the Lower Medway Internal Drainage Board, for example). All this is in addition to the numerous enquiries, complaints and other contacts from the public, not all of which turn out to be to do with the Council—for these I maintain a list of local organisations concerned with various matters, though sometimes an enquiry goes even beyond that. Almost any subject imaginable can (and usually does!) arrive on my doorstep, in the mail or by telephone.

Because Councillors, unlike Members of Parliament, are not paid a salary this means that those of us below retirement age generally have to work as well. My night work during this time has made me far less accessible to the public than I'd wish, so I have been trying to find an alternative way to generate enough income on which to live. I hope to have something in place by the end of this year, though there is nothing firm as yet.

During this past year and a half, I have learned a huge amount about how things work—and sometimes don't work—as well as discovering much about how Council, private sector and voluntary organisations function and what they do. I've visited care homes, a pumping station, a rail link, an organic farm, recycling centres and various other places. I feel I am now just beginning to get a good feel for what is going on within the Medway Towns, and I fervently hope that it will all help me do a better job for our residents in future.

Next time: My perception of the political scene in Medway.