And what did you do over the Bank Holiday Councillor?

Rose of Mossley

This fund raising event for local good causes at the Rose of Mossley, Rose Lane raised almost £1,000 and was entirely run by volunteers supported by Marion the licensee

August Bank Holiday weekend is always a great time in Church Ward as we have a day off and we take advantage of the Beatles Festival to meet and greet visitors to our area from all over the World.

I spent my time at community events most in Church Ward. I am always delighted to do this because I want to play my part in recognising what the large number of volunteers do to keep our area having a strong community.

On Saturday I visited the Penny Lane Development Trust who always have a big event on. Local people as well as visitors come to enjoy god music, cakes and the opportunity to but local books and locally produced merchandise. I have to admit I wasn’t sure what Elvis was doing there for two days!

Later I called in at St Barnabas Church, Penny Lane and just missed the Invicta choir. Invicta made their second visit to Liverpool from Sweden where one of their mainstays is singing Beatles songs (it makes a change from ABBA apparently!) They love doing the Beatles on Penny lane. The Church always put on a good local history display and make a few bob to keep their church open all hours to help the community as a hub in so many ways.

On Sunday I went over to Walton Hall Park to join Kris Brown our parliamentary candidate for Walton and other local volunteers run a stall. Chrissie and her volunteers are an inspiration to us all. They do marvellous things to help the council maintain that park from fundraising to litter picking. I went from to two pubs in Church Ward which were raising funds for local good causes. Fortunately I wasn’t driving as in both pubs I was bought a pint of best bitter which probably induced me to but more raffle tickets, tombola tickers and second hand books than I might otherwise have done. At the Rose of Mossley they made almost £1,000 and had a great time in the sun. Then a quick revisit to Penny Lane before having a well-deserved nap to sleep off the two pints.

I’m particularly writing this now because a lot of our new Lib Dem members have been asking me what a councillor does and whether they should become a councillor. Well every councillor is different and we all have three jobs to do:

  1. Be a politician. Yes of course we have our political beliefs and at times must argue them out. Inside Liverpool Council we do have some real ding-doing debates but only about the 5-10% of the agenda that we disagree on given the limited powers of councils and the limited policy interventions that we can make.

 

  1. Be a case worker. This varies from ward to ward in both type and complexity. The caseload I have now is very different than when I was a councillor in the Dingle or Picton. Most of my casework is not related to the Council. People stop me if they have a problem with any part of the public sector and see me as a champion on their behalf.

 

  1. Be a community fixer and shaper. Working with all sorts of volunteers to improve the quality of life of the physical and social community to add to whatever the state and its institutions can do.

 

It’s this last bit that I like most of all because it’s here that a committed councillor can really do things for their community irrespective of politics. Our job is to use our mandate at a local lever to ensure that the right people meet the right people; that everyone knows what the real rather than perceived problems of an area; and to work with others to develop community initiatives to deal with some of those problems.

 

It’s a real thrill to know loads of people in the community and for them to know you. It’s great to have a chat in pub with a few people and talk through a few ideas and then over the next few weeks and months turn those thoughts into actions in support of those local people. My job is not to do everything or in some cases anything. It is my job however, to make sure things happen.

 

Some people would think that there is little community activity in my ward as we do not have one residents association. We have attempted them but they have quickly dies out. However we have 11 places of worship around the ward; a friends group in the Park; 8 schools with PTAs; a credit union; an amenity group which supplies our streets with marvellous floral displays. I estimate that of an electorate of some 11,800 about 500 adults do something in the community in some ways.

 

There’s an old saying that ‘if you want something done find a busy person to do it!” These 500 people are the people I turn to for anything. Will they give me their opinion on things; will they listen to my opinion on things? Can we work together on things? All questions that we need to ask. Most of this is entirely none-political. If I tried to advance a political agenda in any of these activities not only would I be exposed but also people would rightly just not work with me.

 

Of course there is an electoral advantage to this. People at a local level often vote for a political champion than a political party. If they know you and like you and see you are busy then they will often suspend wider political beliefs on your behalf. But beware. If you really don’t like being a community activist you will fail at it. If you are a person who sees this type of work just as a means of political advancement then you won’t keep it up because it can be both demanding and time consuming.

 

Anyway the rest of my weekend will be occupied with grandchildren. One has already arrived and I am dashing to finish this before the other 3 arrive for a trip to Calderstones Park and the ice creams parlour. By the end of the day I will be more tired than the previous two days. Now there’s an idea. Anyone in L18 want to help me establish a self-help support group for knackered grandpas?!

 

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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