A Day in the Life of a Local Councillor
Sheila reports... Stephen Fenton, our speaker on March 26th, is a Liberal Democrat Councillor for Woodthorpe and Dringhouses. This is one of the 3 Member Wards in York because of its size. There are some 5,500 households in the ward with some 10.000 people. He works alongside 2 other fellow councillors Ashley Mason and Paula Widdowson.
They share tasks and each Cllr Leads on certain issues and all have different approaches. Stephens ‘day job’ is in NHS England and he covers his Council responsibilities lunchtimes, evenings and weekends….so a very busy man!!!! He very much sees his Role as representing OUR residents’ views to the Council… to be their ‘Voice’ in effect.
He started his talk with “So what does a Ward Councillor do” and we soon learnt how varied his role was! He explained that there was no ‘Job Description’ as such and that he had chosen his focus around his own interests and passions. He receives an annual basic allowance of £10,371. He said that Covid had changed the way he worked as he obviously can no longer go into peoples’ homes e. g. if they were council tenants and there was a problem with the property. Much of his communication with the residents is via Twitter/Facebook Messenger/Emails and Telephone calls.
He said that no two days are the same and the joy and variety of the role meant he was never bored! In spite of his planned approach to the Role, he said that he was often caught by the left field. He felt that being visible in the ward was critical to him and he did this via his love of cycling by getting on his bike in the community. This was also very useful as it meant that he could actively engage with residents to achieve tangible outcomes.
He looked back at what he had been involved with over the previous few weeks and the range and variety was fascinating:
· Communication with the Friends of Chapmans Pond concerning dog fouling.
· As a Trustee of Foxwood Community Centre – looking at surplus food distribution from their food bank, to eliminate waste.
· Responded to a report of damage to a bus shelter on Tadcaster Road/corner of the Horseshoe where a large glass panel had been shattered (residents had heard noise in the night). (On a personal note I passed the bus shelter the next day and saw the damage and danger of the shattered glass to pedestrians which was all over the pavement and emailed Stephen). He responded immediately and said he was passing on his bike and took photographs of the damage and reported this to the relevant Council department. Glass was removed pretty pronto!
· He had dealt with 8 further reports requiring attention ranging from pot holes/litter picking green bags ready for collection/discarded mattress in a childrens play area (found myself thinking what kind of person would do something like that, as am guessing did many fellow Rotarians) fly tipping in Tesco Askham Bar recycling area where not just fly tipping had occurred but cardboard etc had also been set alight. All graphically demonstrated with photographs.
· Alongside these issues there was his usual strategic/scrutiny committee responsibilites/planning committee meeting – the latter he described as ‘Always a Joy’ and more complex issues concerned e scooters/ Network Rail site on Moor lane requiring liaison with residents and Network Rail/ to the dumping of medical waste in legitimate yellow bags which because of the danger, involved intervention from the Police and Neighbourhood Watch Teams. Implementation of new Perspex screening in a bus shelter where the original screening had clouded over and people waiting for a bus couldn’t see the bus!
· On Covid issues, instrumental in organising a Covid test centre at the Rugby Club in Acomb Wood when the number of covid cases had risen exponentially and where people could go who were not exhibiting symptoms for lateral flow testing – one of the earlier initiatives I believe where this was set up and is still available. And last but not least the provision of benches for people to take a rest when obeying Government suggestions to get regular exercise during lockdown with a lovely photo (very dear to my heart..and knees and feet!!!!)
Clearly never a dull moment in the Life of a Local Councillor!!!
Stephen then took a considerable number of questions on a huge variety of issues reflecting the interest in his talk. Thank you Stephen and we hope to see you again soon.