A lot of people have been asking me recently to comment on the work being done, or not done, by councillors in Kirkdale. This was prompted by my musings in a recent blog about the number of councillors required to do our job properly in the Council and in our communities. This, in turn, was prompted by the debate that we will be having in the Council on Wednesday about our response to the Boundary submission being forced on us by the Tory Government.
I am reluctant to respond to the Kirkdale challenge for two reasons:
- It is the electors right and duty to hold their councillors to account at the ballot box. They must judge what sort of councillor they want – a party label person or a community activist.
- None of the Kirkdale Councillors are Lib Dems. I have no control over councillors from another Party and can only challenge them at election time with increasingly good results across the City.
I do, however, have some control over what Lib Dem Councillors in Liverpool do. This is a very loose control because, by and large, we all see things the same way. We believe that Politics starts in the streets, neighbourhoods and communities and not in the Town Hall, Whitehall or the closed Party meeting.
Within the Council we expect our members to turn up, move motions, vote and contribute to discussions. Our Group has been very good at this and have a 90%+ attendance rate. This would be higher if meeting dates were not changed at relatively short notice. We have a good record of challenging polices from the Cabinet and Officers, putting motions down and working not only with other Parties but other organisations to ensure that the Council is doing the right things and that the Cabinet is held to account.
What makes us very different from others is that we expect a minimum standard of work within the communities that we represent. We expect Liberal Democrat Councillors to:
- at least 6 times a year, outside elections, to issue to all residents a ‘Focus’ or similar leaflet to inform residents of what is going on locally and asking their opinion on local issues.
- issue specific information letters on issues which need resident opinion before we can act. Typical of these are licensing and planning applications, traffic hazards and basic ‘street scene’ issues.
- be readily available by Advice Centre or other means to talk to and listen to residents. Yesterday for example the Church Ward team were at our Advice Centre at the Farmers Market in Allerton Road for 4 hours.
- be available to assist residents and other groups in our wards campaign on issues even if, sometimes, we disagree with them.
- let people know how to find them and maintain easily available contacts for phone, amil and email.
- visit at least half the homes in their ward outside election time just to chat with people and keep an eye on emerging issues.
We very rarely have to take action to ‘enforce’ such work. It is part of our political DNA. We do it to express our liberalism and because we believe that such actions are an important part of our work in showing that ‘liberalism’ is different from other political creeds.
Of course, within the above expectations we do lots of other things and do some things in different ways. Most of us tweet, issue press releases and some of us even blog!
On top of this community activism, we also need to earn a living, do our official council work; do work for our political Party. On average Lib Dem Councillors spend at least 20 hours a week on this wide range of council business. Oh, and I almost forgot most of us have families as well who expect us to spend at least some time with them.
Do your Councillors measure up to these sorts of standards? If they don’t you have two choices:
- Kick them out and replace them with someone else at the next election.
- Join us and work with us community by community to ensure that people get the service they both need and deserve.
I can’t go to the Town Hall and talk about what the people of this City want and need unless I first go and listen to them in their own community and on their own doorsteps. Being a councillor is my way of serving the community I live in. I didn’t join the Liberal Party, as we were then, 54 years ago because I wanted a political career and a fast rise to stardom. My colleagues and I are proud to be councillors; even prouder to be Lib Dem councillors and prouder still to be able to be councillors in the best City in the world.