Hunt on for new Norfolk councillors
A new campaign has been launched to try to encourage more people to consider becoming a local councillor, which has won backing from those who have already signed up to serve their communities.
We’ve all done it. The local council has done something we don’t agree with and we question who on earth allowed them to waste taxpayers’ money on this or that.
But for the majority of us the most we ever do about it, other then complaining, is perhaps voting differently at the ballot box in the following elections.
Not many of us take the plunge to get more involved in making the decisions which matter, which is why a new campaign is encouraging more people to consider becoming local councillors.
This week is Local Democracy Week and the East of England Local Government Association has launched a Be A Councillor campaign to find fresh blood to bring their ideas to the region’s local authorities.
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The campaign is being launched in the run-up to the local elections next May, with the intention of increasing civic participation in local communities and to increase the talent pool and diversity from which councillors are elected.
Conservative Tony Adams, who represents Hellesdon South East on Broadland District Council and Drayton and Horsford on Norfolk County Council, said councillors had important roles to play in the community.
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He said: “I have been a parish and district councillor for something like 34 years. I was already a member of the Conservative party and someone suggested I’d make a good councillor. I was only 32 at the time.
“People voted for me and I’m still here all this time later, so I must be doing something right!
“It is important that we get more people wanting to be councillors as it can be a struggle to find people who want to stand, especially at the district and parish council level.”
Labour’s Bert Bremner, who represents Norwich’s University ward on the city and county council, said councillors had the chance to make a real difference to people’s lives.
Former Mile Cross Middle School teacher Mr Bremner said he had always been involved in politics, but it was when Labour county councillors were involved in improving his school that he realised he wanted to play a bigger part.
He said: “It is an absolute pleasure to be a councillor. You can help with local people’s problems, which might include planning applications happening around the corner from their homes to repairs. It’s very varied and really invigorating.”
Adrian Ramsay, Green party city councillor for Nelson ward, said: “I have been involved in local politics for about 12 years, having campaigned to support the Green party and then deciding the best way to make a difference was to stand myself.
“I have always enjoyed working with residents on local issues as well as representing people. There’s a real mix of emotions in being a councillor in that sometimes it can be frustrating when you can’t solve something, but it is rewarding when you do manage to sort out an issue somebody has, such as repairs or waste collection problems.
“The city council is a bit more representative than some councils in terms of ages and genders, but all political parties are always looking for people who are interested in becoming councillors.”
Liberal Democrat Tim East, who represents Costessey on Norfolk County Council and Old Costessey on South Norfolk Council, said casework was the most rewarding part of the role, but warned it could take some time to get the cogs of local government turning.
He said: “I first got involved back in the late 1970s/early 1980s because my two boys played football for Costessey Sports and they had to change in a primitive, dangerous, asbestos-ridden excuse for a pavilion. I went to the parish council about it and nothing was done so we ended up getting my father elected to the county council. I was a serving head teacher so I could not become a county councillor, but I ended up getting elected as a district and parish councillor.
“More than 30 years later and we’ve finally got the Costessey Centre opened, so I got there in the end. If somebody thinks things can change overnight they might be disappointed!
“I’d say the most satisfaction I get is through casework, which I spend about 40 hours a week sorting out. It is rewarding when you resolve or help resolve a problem which has been ruining the life of someone in the community you serve.”
A new website, www.beacouncillor.org.uk/east, has been created to give an idea of what it’s like to be a councillor and how to go about getting involved.
A series of public events will be held where people can hear directly from local councillors and find out more about the role and how to get involved.
The one for Norfolk will be held at the Forum in Norwich on Tuesday, November 16. Doors open at 6.30pm and the meeting begins at 7pm, with presentations by current councillors and the chance to ask questions.