Journal: Siobhan Baker

Journal Entry 1

I really had no idea the amount of work Councillors do in serving their constituents and the wider local community! Having attended a Scrutiny Panel, an advice surgery, and spoken with my mentor about their path to election - knocking on every door in their particular ward three times - I've seen just a snippet of the level of work (and time commitment) involved. And it doesn't stop there.

Throughout the Scrutiny Panel meeting I marvelled at the passions and challenge displayed just as vehemently by the local community as the councillors themselves. I am beginning to understand some of the processes involved in shaping the future of our communities, and educating the decisions aimed at creating the most good for the most people.

The room was packed to the brim with public who had come out to defend plans for older community centres to be redesigned or in some cases possibly shut down, in order to create more housing to meet the overwhelming demand in the Borough. It was moving to hear the long histories of these centres, with many making a compelling argument to maintain what they'd built over time. Objectively I could also begin to appreciate how necessary, though difficult, some of these types of decisions can be.

I was also surprised to see in black and write some of the statistics relating to the levels of poverty in certain areas, not having realised where my particular ward fell on the scale.

I found the Advice Surgery session particularly interesting, as it gave me a chance to speak more with my mentor in depth about both our ambitions, and to hear about their experience of being a councillor. One particular appointment was for applicants who had taken the time to meet individually with Councillors who would be voting on an appeal of theirs in an upcoming committee meeting.

It highlighted the need for council procedures as adhering to policies and examining something on face-value sometimes can't account for hearing the merits of a particular case. Even I myself could see the arguments both for and against their application and found it difficult to come to a complete decision.

So far I'm really glad that I've been given this opportunity to go behind-the-scenes and look forward to more experiences like these as I continue in the programme.