Well, that was somewhat unexpected.
I had turned up at Monday night’s Annual Parish Meeting and Annual Parish Council Meeting (not the same thing at all) with the sole expectation of a smoothly run meeting, the pleasure of some time with my fellow Parish councillors and a relatively early finish. Our Chair, Machala, is not one for lengthy meetings and chairs them with good humour and efficiency.
The Parish Meeting went according to plan, with the reports from the Chair, the County and District Councillors, the Parochial Church Council and our Tree Warden - we’ve learnt not to expect a report from the Suffolk Constabulary - and we then segued into the Parish Council meeting immediately thereafter.
The first item of business was the election of the Chair for 2018/19, and it was noted by a fellow councillor that Machala had originally intended to serve as Chair for no more than two years. Frankly, I was of the view that she’d done a good job and was perfectly happy for her to continue, but she agreed that this was the case and that, in any event, there was the possibility that she might not be able to serve another full term anyway.
I should have been suspicious at this point, and the suggestion that there should be a natural progression from Vice Chair to Chair did make me wonder, especially as I was the incumbent Vice Chair. I was thus nominated and seconded, and, in the blink of a procedural eye, I found myself Chair of Creeting St Peter Parish Council.
It’s an appointment with immediate effect, so I signed the papers proffered to me by our Parish Clerk, Jennie, and set off, running through the agenda.
Funnily enough, despite more than thirty years in politics, I’ve not chaired very often, although I have had to deal with some pretty haphazard chairing over that time. What that means is that, whilst I may have quite a bit to learn about how to do the job, I have some pretty good ideas in terms of how not to do it.
I managed to steer Council through its business in about an hour, thanked everyone and brought my first meeting to a close.
So far, so good.
I went home, and explained to Ros what had happened. “What do I do now?”, I asked. Her advice was to find out exactly what my responsibilities are, both legally and organisationally.
And so, the reading begins. Luckily, there are plenty of resources out there, primarily via the National Association of Local Councils, and its county affiliate here in Suffolk. I've already contacted the Suffolk Association of Local Councils office to seek access to the NALC website, and notified them of my election.
I also need to think about my priorities for 2018/19, and what I might hope to achieve during my term in office. Of course, this is limited by an obvious lack of resource, and I don’t intend to do anything that is contrary to our ethos as a Council, whereby everyone has a role to play, and we eschew the ‘strong leader’ model so beloved by central government.
I’d better get on then...
I’d better get on then...