I realised the other week that my term as Parish Councillor comes to an end later this year, and in the 5th May local elections I am up for re-election. I’m hopeful of being returned, but it made me consider what effect I’d had over the past four years.
Parish Councillors are the very local part of local government, serving the community in which they live. For the most part, and certainly in my case, the role is unpaid. The workload varies from Parish to Parish, but as Chair of my Council I guess I put in at least an hour a day, usually more, and this week I’ll have done at least fifteen hours as I’ve had a daytime meeting (that I took unpaid leave from work for) and this Saturday I’ll be helping in the village ‘Spring Clean’ litter pick.
Apart from the normal assessment of and comment on planning applications, the distribution of small grants from the precept and the day to day interaction between community and local (district) government, the Parish Council has:
- Produced a Parish Council website; offering Parish Council and local community news, holding the minutes of meetings and other items. This was one of the first projects I undertook, and the site is built around a WordPress blog not unlike this one. It’s functional and perhaps a little dated now, but it can’t be that bad as it won second place in the Co-Op Website of the year awards 2008…
- Redeveloped the children’s play area in the playing field. This project, which cost more than thirty thousand pounds, refurbished a totally derelict area. The design went from my back of a fag-packet sketch to an award winning landscape designer, and eventually to a successful and well used facility with a train theme, landscaped earth mounds, tunnels and slides and a sandpit (that the dogs do not use – that was a fear that happily never materialised!)
- Switched off many of the street lights in the village between the hours of midnight and five (approximately), saving nine tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, and £1400 cash (at 2009 rates), as well as reducing night pollution and revealing more fully the wonderful starscape above us. My Parish was the first in the county to do this, and we managed to carry it through and show a reduced accident rate and a reduced crime rate with darker nights. Other parishes followed and large sections of ring road and motorway were part night lit too.
- Built a new Burial Ground… from original intent, through locating and obtaining (for free!) the land, through developing a design and meeting the requirements of the county council, and seeking and gaining Planning Permission, to (as of this month) contractors beginning work. The Burial Ground will be open for business by next Spring (2012), and is set in the most wonderful countryside overlooking the village and on to the Cotswold escarpment. It will be operated by the Parish Council as a Burial Authority, and will be run with as much consideration for the environmental impact as for the business itself.
Of course, there are lots of minor works as well that the Council has undertaken over my term as councillor – meetings and cooperation with other organisations… and it can’t be overstated that I’m only one of nine Councillors on the Council and we all work hard, as does the Clerk, but if these four projects were the only thing that had come out of my time on the Council I’d still be very proud. I’m looking forward to being returned in May; there’s still so much to do…!