Thursday, May 19, 2022

A genteel demonstration in the county town

I am not, by nature, the sort of person who enjoys demonstrations. I’m increasingly less keen on crowds as I get older (and I wasn’t wild about them even when I was young) and chanting isn’t really my thing either.

But I’d received an invitation to a demonstration outside County Hall at lunchtime and, given that my office is less than ten minutes away on foot, it seemed churlish not to show some support. The subject of the protest was sewage pollution of our rivers and coastline and, as this is both a Party priority and a matter of local interest in the Gipping Valley, it couldn’t do any harm to play “fourth spear carrier” for a few minutes.

Our County Councillors formed a joint Group with the Greens and Independents, and are the “official” Opposition, so were putting a motion to Full Council calling for action, and the demonstration was part of the publicity effort.

I arrived to find a collection of familiar faces, including my own (Green) County Councillor, Keith Welham, and a group from Mid Suffolk, and took the opportunity to get a few “politics” things done, whilst the Greens (and the odd Liberal Democrat) sang songs in a very “knit your own muesli” sort of way. Something else I’m reminded of - I’m not wildly enthused by communal singing unless a certain, albeit modest, level of alcohol has been consumed first.

That gave me an opportunity to escape, the media having taken their photos anyway and only really wanting to talk to the Group, so I walked into town for a little light food shopping before heading back to the office for a solid afternoon of compliance.

I don’t think that I’m going to change my mind on demonstrations…

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Creeting St Peter - my reign of terror is at a close

I’d always been a strangely reluctant Chair of my Parish Council, something which might surprise those who have watched me carry out my duties. But, if you’re going to do something, you might as well give it your best shot and, besides, I’ve probably benefitted from my observations of committee chairs good, bad and indifferent over the years. And, of course, I have views.

But, at last year’s Annual Parish Council Meeting, I made it absolutely clear that I wouldn’t be serving a fifth year in the role, leaving it to my colleagues to find a replacement from amongst their number. Last night saw the moment of truth arrive and, I’m pleased to say, I’ve been “relieved”, so to speak. My new role, apart from being Vice Chair, is to be the Portfolio Holder for Finance, Compliance and Street Lighting, which rather suits my skill set, and I’m already working on some of the more immediate issues, which should keep me busy moving forward.

Of course, there is the challenge which faces all former Chairs, i.e. how to avoid looking as though you think that you're still Chair. But I do believe that no organisation benefits from having the same person lead it for too long, and my successor will offer a change of perspective that will hopefully allow us to progress.

There is a strange sensation of having a weight lifted from my shoulders though, even if that sounds a bit strange. After all, how much pressure can there be leading an organisation with an annual budget of £5,500 or so? But, that said, you do have the responsibility of representing your community, trying to speak for it in the face of developments that are unpopular or unwelcome, and attempting to ensure that things happen when they're supposed to. It does weigh on you, even if only subconsciously, particularly if you take the role seriously.

It's probably far too early to assess whether or not my four years have been a success but my colleagues have been kind about my leadership, and my presence is still welcomed, so I ought to take that as an endorsement, I guess. And I still feel that I have something to offer, and want to remain engaged, so that, until next year's elections at least, I'll continue to play my part. After that, it's up to the electorate, albeit that we haven't had elections in living memory and might not in 2023 either.