Friday, 26 June 2009

What's going on?

This last week seems to have been manic – and sadly I’ve discovered a few things that I haven’t got done quite as quickly as I would have liked. I sit here at Shire Hall, metaphorically locked away from the phone for a few hours, whilst I reclaim ownership of my Inbox and have a chance to get my “To Do” list in shape.

I’m frustrated at the moment with the amount of time it’s taking to get an update on things that I report. All Councillors seem to be reporting Potholes and Pavements that need repairing – but then we wait and wait to see what happens. Even more frustrating is to report a problem, see it temporarily fixed, and then see that temporary fix fail just a few days or weeks later.

I appreciate that officers are working flat out at the moment to rectify the damage and that money is going to be tight at the Council for some years to come. As a group we are currently pushing for more “customer feedback” when we report problems. Whilst in a utopian situation things would be done instantly, we know that that can’t happen (no matter how much we wish it could!).

But as the person on the receiving end of what constituents want to see fixed, it would be nice to be able to give more meaningful updates!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

A year in the life of .....

The work (re)starts here!

The first two weeks after the election have been quite gentle in comparison to the last two months of campaigning – a very different scenario from parachuting in to the job last November. There are the usual Parish Council Meetings and emails and phone calls to attend to and some training at the Council for new Councillors. Funnily enough I qualify for these as I did not have formal induction training in November.

But this week the real work starts. On Friday, the Lib Dem group met to decide who our spokespeople and committee members would be and on Tuesday we have the first full Council Meeting of this new intake. We all shuffle seats depending on the position that we hold – and I’m thrilled that after 6 months in the job I am moving much closer to the front. I am now the Lib Dem Spokes for Adult Services in Cambridgeshire – something I feel very passionate about given the case work I've been doing in the villages. I take over from a wonderful man – Cllr Geoff Heathcock – who is moving to be Chair of the HASC Scrutiny Committee where he will bring his inimitable style and energy to the job! We have some new faces in our party group and all of them have already made their mark and bring tremendous energy and expertise to the group. A formidable team!

Tuesday I turn 45. This time last year I’d just finished all my law exams and was wondering what I was going to be doing with them. What a difference 12 months makes!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Humbled by bravery.

Listening to the news each day it is sometimes easy to become immune to what is going on in the world. Sadly, I believe we call it compassion fatigue. Nationally, people have shown how appalled they are with the MPs expenses scandal and the tide seems to be turning now with a real commitment to change at Westminster.

But sometimes you have to stop and take note of people’s bravery in the world of politics. People often remember where they were when Kennedy died – and I certainly remember where I was 20 years ago when the troops opened fire on the students in Tiananmen Square. But today we are witnessing breathtaking bravery in Iran – people coming out and fighting to make sure that their recent vote counts. I admire their bravery and can only hope that they will be successful without blood shed – but only time will tell.

During the election I posted blog entries citing my concern over people who no longer valued their vote. On the day of the County Council election I was privileged to witness two senior Chinese people being able to vote for the first time ever. It’s impossible to convey how excited they were and how moved those of us in and near the polling station were. They were overwhelmed to be able to exercise a right that many no longer value.

My thoughts are with the demonstrators in Iran – and I can only admire and applaud their bravery in the face of such opposition.

Friday, 12 June 2009

A week away from the Blog!

It’s been a busy week – euphoria after the group’s wins last Friday have settled down (not worn off!) and now it’s back to business as usual.

Having been on probation for this job for the last 6 months it’s wonderful to know that I now have 4 years to get things done. Top of the list on an ongoing basis are:

- Rural Buses
- Potholes/Pavements
- Services for the elderly

But I’m adding to it on a daily basis! We all know that the coming years on the Council are going to be hard in terms of available funding – but the key is making sure that what is spent, is spent wisely. No waste on grandiose schemes when there is no funding for the basic ones.

My other continuing goal is to be as accessible as possible to the electorate. The election flagged up loud and clear how some local politicians only knock on doors when they want a vote. I need to get the message out to those who haven’t had it yet that we put out a Focus leaflet every 2 – 3 months detailing what we’ve been up to. I have email, a website and this blog. Mobile and home phone numbers get me – and I’ll try to arrange regular constituency surgeries from now.

The bottom line is that if people don’t tell me they have a problem, it’s hard to fix it.

Friday, 5 June 2009

We won!

No Blog yesterday as we were out from early until late trying to catch every last vote that we could. It certainly paid off!

Thank you to everyone who voted yesterday, the votes have been counted and the results are:

Lib Dems: 1881
Conservatives: 1091
Labour: 323
Greens: 158

Our majority has gone from 200 in November 2008 to 790 today

After a few days off to recover I'll be back out there on Monday sorting out bus services!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Fiddling whilst Rome burns

While Westminster seems hell bent on implosion, I can’t help wondering if they’ve remembered the people on the street that they represent. My post bag is full of issues relating to affordable housing, people worried about services their elderly relatives need to access – dwindling rural bus services, roads, pavements, council tax demands – things that the average person is truly concerned about. Knocking on doors I’ve met a significant number of people who have lost their jobs or think they’re about to.

I’m beyond frustrated with the back and forth verbal fisticuffs at Westminster – particularly as people’s readiness to vote seems to be diminishing on a daily basis as a result of it. Many of our elected parliamentarians seem to be entirely disconnected from the electorate – more worried about saving their own jobs and careers - or hoping to enhance them after a general election.

In the mean time, the local politicians who are actually in touch with the electorate and their concerns plod on, hoping people will turn out tomorrow and put their “X” on the ballot paper.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Calm before the storm

It’s a very eerie “calm before the storm” sort of feeling today. All my leaflets have been delivered. Most of the doors have been knocked on. No sign of any Blues, Greens or Reds out there - or anywhere else ..... very strange! The tellers’ rota is organised and the army of those “knocking up” on the day are ready to roll.

So for now we just keep plodding on, knocking on the last few doors and waiting for the count of the votes – which will take place on Friday. Sons No 1 and 2 are miffed that I haven’t asked for them to have the day off school to attend. But I think once was enough. No 2 is just annoyed as he managed to sleep through November’s count!

But the weather is beautiful and one of my neighbours has just knocked on the door to wish me good luck and give me a very fragrant bunch of sweet peas from her garden. I’ll enjoy the calm because next week I hope to be back at Shire Hall sorting out the bus services through the villages and looking at a raft of social care case work that has just come in.

Monday, 1 June 2009

The home straight

The last week of the election campaign is upon us - Friday the count will be held and we'll see how the votes have been cast.

I'm thankful for blue skies and sunshine - having last canvassed in November this is a lot more pleasant and my woolly jumpers and thermals have staying packed away! My election shoes are very comfortably worn in now.

The family are well into the swing of things second time around - the boys have finally worked out that their contribution is to help with washing up without grumbling! My mother has got things running well on the domestic front and my other half has got to grips with manipulating all the canvass data and deploying us on all the day to the places where we can best remind people to turn out and vote.

A final small reminder: Thursday June 4th - you don't need to have your voting card with you - it's fine to turn up without it.

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Today that’s exactly what the Whelan household have gone for. I’m never keen at disturbing people with canvassing on a Sunday so we’ve made the most of the good weather and had a quiet family day.

We had an unusual and early start to the day when we saw a pair of deer walking through the streets of Caldecote. Walking boots on, we went for a five mile walk across the fields at 06:00 and I think I can best describe it as being a bit like a secret world that you don’t get to see often. We saw no one until we were almost home an hour later. Well no one human! But the bridleways and fields were populated by the local deer and rabbits and they didn’t seem to mind sharing their early morning peace and quiet with us.

A great way to start a day!