At last night’s Parish Council budget meeting, someone asked the question I’d rather been putting off and tipped the domino over.
“Please will you reconsider and say you’ll stay on as Chairman?”
And the answer was, of course, not in the positive. But hey, the cat’s out of the bag. And since I had an article to write for the village newsletter it seems as good a time as any to ‘fess up. But to avoid doubt, I will remain (elections permitting) a Parish Councillor and Chairman for a while longer.
I’ve been Chairman of Charfield Parish Council for ten years now, and a Councillor for more. In truth the Chairman only chairs meetings (yes, it’s “Chairman” and not “Chair” and even female Chairmen are thus titled), and has no other special privilege in meetings other than the occasional casting vote in cases where deadlock needs defusing. In the ten years I don’t think I’ve used a casting vote and, largely, we’ve been a Council that operates by consensus, which has been lovely.
I began life as a Councillor because I wanted to help create a new burial ground in my village, there having been no place for the newly deceased to rest since the churchyards closed. It was meant to be a task-and-finish role, but when I opened the Charfield Burial Ground at Spring Equinox 2013 I simply kept going. Charfield was the first county in the region to turn off streetlights after midnight, the first too to replace them all with LED units, with an overall saving of energy and carbon equivalent pollution.
The role of Chairman got a little harder as the swingeing austerity cutbacks from the (so-called) government in London bit ever more into social services, grant aid and basic functional local authority work. Our roads became more like mountain bike routes, with many a car with broken suspension or damaged wheel sat at the kerbside. And our little village of just under a thousand homes was declared fine to take another fifteen hundred, with only a choice of which car to drive to work and back.
I found myself doing perhaps ten to twenty hours a week, reading reports, writing reports, answering emails, attending meetings. Eventually it led to more than a few sleepless nights, which was when the alarm bells started tinkling – I stopped paid work in 2015, why was I having a harder time for no pay at all? And so, for all the right reasons and some of the others too, I’m letting go and helping someone else drive the bus. Not quite yet though… the Chairman is elected at the May Council meeting.
And there are elections in May too, right at the start of the month, at County as well as Parish level. I’m hopeful I’m going to be returned as a Parish Councillor (but that’s up to the rest of the Parish electorate). In the meantime, I need to make a checklist of all the strings I’ve tied to myself over the ten years. When I started, parish council websites were a “huh?”, and so I built us one (won an award too), and I still hold both the ownership and all the logins. I’ve a garage full of PC kit too, from brush cutters to PA systems. All must be redistributed.
Hey, perhaps there’ll be enough space in the garage afterward to fit a second motorbike in there…
I’ve learned an awful lot in ten years of Chairmanship. Most of all I’ve gained confidence as a public speaker and, funnily enough, that’s been a bonus in my Druidry too. I’ve enjoyed almost all of it, and I do know I will miss it. I’m not the worlds greatest team player and I work best at the wheel. It’ll be fun to work under someone else’s watchful gaze. but until May, back to it. Another Council Meeting next Tuesday, a developer liaison meeting the evening after and a Greenway project meeting the evening before! Chug chug.