A personal post from Graham Ellis
Lisa and Graham live in Melksham, Wiltshire, England

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Melksham Town Council - vacancy in the Spa Ward

STOP PRESS

The URL of this web page was accidentally quoted as the place to find details of the Melksham Forward meeting on 26th April 2011. Please see [HERE] instead. Thanks - Graham




There's a vacancy on Melksham Town Councillor for The Melksham Spa Ward, and a byelection will be held there in due course if a certain number of people write in and ask for one - they probably have done so already. [Otherwise there's a co-option by the existing councillors]. Now - I love it here in Melksham, I think the place has got a great future, and I think I can do a little bit to help it to that future - in it's own right, and for the folks like Lisa and me, Chris and Delene, Kim and so many other good friends who live in Melksham. And for the people who work here, and who visit. So ... should I raise a hand in some way and ask "me? Can I have the job?"

The idea of standing for the Town Council was so way out that I hadn't even thought about it 5 years (or so) ago when one of the existing councillors (leader of his political group on the council, I think) approached me and asked if I would consider it. Somewhat to my shame, I brushed the idea straight off, rather along the lines of "you must be joking" and "I'm not even a signed up member of your party". But ... at times ... seeds are sown. And, last week, I popped into the Town Hall to look at a map of The Spa ward, and give some more serious thought to the idea. Lots of thoughts / reasons for me to step forward but I have decided not to do so at this opportunity ... a whole lot of reasons, none of which I would regard as an absolute show stopper in the future.

1. Specialist not generalist. Councillors need to know about a lot of areas of a town - even if it's not the direct responsibiity of their tier of government. But I'm not there; I tend to specialise and know more about business, planning, travel and tourism and less about other stuff. That's not quite such a big problem in a multi-representative ward such as Melksham Spa, where other who would be elected to represent the same people know about these other things.

2. Don't want to join a party. I have a huge respect, and a great deal of agreement, with what some of the politicians at various levels and in all three major parties have done (I'm not going to publish a list of names here!). But I wouldn't feel comfortable to endorse all the values and policies of any one of them. Standing as an "independent", though, is a tough business with no machine behind you, and no party brush with which you can be painted. In other words, it would be double-hard work to get through to the voter who *does* vote, but who takes only a passing interest in who's standing - just making a quick decision on party lines.

3. Better out than in. There's nothing to stop me getting on the phone / emailing someone out of the blue on a topic that concerns our business, or on something else that's of interest to me, or writing a letter to the local paper, phoning in to the local radio station. As an elected town councillor, that freedom could be limited. I have heard people interviewed in the past and asked "why don't you become an xxxx" to which they have answered "because it would mean I had to stick to convention / toe the line and I would be less effective", and I worry that by taking on a role such as town councillor, I might be subject to such limitations. Interestingly, in my role as President of the Melksham Chamber of Commerce (until May, anyway) I do NOT find myself limited in this way, although I do check anything outside the norm with the Chair / Treasurer / Secretary before I drop us in it, and there's a similar check around with the inner circle on TransWilts Railway issues.

4. Marketing and ideas. I'm a teacher by trade and nature. I'll train people on how to program, answer questions, get them going well and motivate them. I'll be available for questions and answers later ... but I'm not your person to take tasks away from a meeting and spend time following up and chasing the detail, nor in putting in huge amounts of preparation. So (Chamber) ... I'm happy to be President, I wouldn't be chair, I shouldn't be secretary, and you mustn't even approach me for a Treasurer's role in anything!

5. Flack. I look at the robust discussions (and stronger) that seem to be a part of the life of an elected representative of the general public - how easily a difference of views can turn into something very much more personal, and at all the scheming and manipulation that goes on, and I shudder. I don't want to join in; I take that too personally, and I worry and would probably be effected far wider than just in my council role.

6. Very forward of me. Look - I was asked once about this and no-one has asked me again ... it's just been my thought. So I suspect I'm in that group of folks who could be labelled "wonder about doing the job, but wouldn't be wanted for it".

7. Not at byelection. And if I *were* to do it, then I wouldn't want to come in half way through to an established setup - much better to com ein when they whole lot's fresh / newly elected

8. Not live in area / don't know area. Would you believe that "The Spa" where we live isn't actually in Melksham Spa ward? In fact, we don't even live in Melksham Town. I have criticised absentee representatives in the past and it would by hypocritical of me to join their ranks. Our work / business IS in Melksham Spa, and I split my waking hours between the two places - thus my interest in Melksham Spa ward. And Melksham Town and Melksham Without Parish (where I live) have a symbiotic relationship where neither is really a natural unit alone, so there's a big cross-interest there too. But looking at the map of the Town / Spa ward, there are roads on it that I've never done much more than walk down and there are cul-de-sacs I've not even done that to.

9. Time. I ain't got the time. Perhaps when we have a decent train service with a system in place to sustain its use and protect it, a fully functioning Campus where people want it to be, with prices at a level that local people can afford, and a town centre that we're proud of for tourists, I should reconsider if (see (6)) I were to be asked again.

I await - in the role of an interested spectator - to see who extra ends up on the Town Council for the Spa ward, and encourage that person to do their very best for the wider town. Elected representtatives at all levels have taken on a difficult role, and while some of them don't always come across in the most positive light, most are excellent people doing what they believe is the very best for their town/area even if others don't see it that way.
(written 2011-04-10, updated 2011-04-24)

 
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Breaking the running sequence - an introduction to conditional statements and loops
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Melksham Town Council - vacancy in the Spa Ward
TrainWest, 2011 in pictures - Christie Miller, Bowerhill, Melksham
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