10 things I won’t miss about being a councillor

3rd June, 2014 7:00 am

As this post hints, I loved my 12 years as a Hackney Labour councillor. I would urge anyone considering running for their council to give it a go. The ability to actually be part of representing and improving your local area is one of the most fulfilling things you can do.

But now that I’ve “escaped” – perhaps temporarily – from public office, I’m suddenly finding there is an upside to life outside the Town Hall.

Hackney_town_hall_1

Here are ten things I won’t miss about being a councillor:

1)    Declarations of interests and dispensations.

2)    Being able to put in your diary what you will be doing on the last  Wednesday of every month, four years in advance. Ditto most other weekday evenings.

3)    The extra email in-box with 50 emails a day, 48 of which are spam from professional conference promoters (“The Revenue Contribution to Capital Outlay – a two day conference in Watford for local authority finance specialists”) and the other two are really important casework from residents who desperately need help.

4)    The look of total defeat on constituents’ faces when you tell them how long the waiting list is for social housing.

5)    Having to ask permission from the Chief Whip to go on holiday.

6)    Not realising there is a thing called an evening in between work and sleep, which can be spent at home, not in a meeting.

7)    Not seeing your children on a weekday before they go to bed.

8)    Eating dinner at 10.30pm.

9)    Light reading consisting of a 120 page committee agenda.

10) Any Other Business.

So for the moment I am feeling liberated. And the pang when the Borough Solicitor addressed me as “Councillor” for the last time at the count, or when three of four remaining Tory councillors joked with my taxi driver “take him as far away from our ward in Stamford Hill as you can”, or taking my town hall pass out of my jacket pocket for the last time in 12 years, has been softened by a new life where I get acquainted with prime time TV and normal meal times.

But one day I know that novelty will wear off and I will want to help someone sort out a local problem and wish I still had some power to do it. I guess I’ll just have to email my councillor and hope they spot my message in amongst the spam.

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  • Darren

    Thanks Luke.
    An interesting insight into the lifestyle (?) of a councillor.

    I have stood for election in the past, only narrowly missing out, and it is something I am currently considering but being self employed from home and being used to having the freedom to do what I want when I want does make me think about some of the points you raised.

    It would be interesting if you posted the ten things that you do miss as well – up for the challenge?

  • swatnan

    Probably the best post that Luke has ever written, his valedectary.
    The best no doubt wasTony Banks MP when he decided to step down.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Hi Luke. I am in the opposite position to you. I have just been elected to Wellington Ward, (Aldershot Town Centre) in the Borough of Rushmoor. I am just beginning to get my head around what is involved!

    I would consider myself a late starter. I was never involved with politics until I joined the Labour party at the age of 51 in November 2010. Within weeks I was standing for an election. On moving to Aldershot, I was selected to stand for Aldershot West at last year’s County Council election.

    So, at the age of 54, on 22nd May 2014, it was a case of third time lucky. I remember the excitement I felt many years ago at the age of 18 when on my second driving test the examiner told me that I had passed. It happened again with key events such as marriage and the arrival of children. I have to admit to feeling the same thrill finding out that I had won, and the magic moment when the returning officer then declares the results and announces that “Jeremy John Preece is elected”. That it was a seat won from the Tories, and UKIP came third, just made it all so much more delicious.

    Members of the local Labour Party put in a huge amount of work to make this happen, and we got to meet some really great people in the ward. I hope that I don’t disappoint! They became even more focussed when I became less mobile when a slipped disc from a few years ago started playing up again.

    Our first council meeting is on 10th June, and we have already had the Labour group meeting to divvy up who is on which panels etc. It feels very much like starting a new job, except that it has the excitement of being in a totally different field to anything that I have done before.

  • Jane Edbrooke

    What is this ‘evening’ you talk of?

  • EricBC

    The extra email in-box with 50 emails a day, 48 of which are spam from professional conference promoters

    ———————————
    Only 2 e-mails a day on average from residents? Does not seem much.
    I did not get much of an impression of what you actually were doing during all these hours.

    An estimation of the cost-efficiency of time spent would be useful. In other words, how much of time devoted to the Council achieved anything? In percentage terms? More than 50%? Less then 5%?

  • Neuron Therapy

    You are absolutely right, Luke, you’ll enjoy a break but it won’t be long till you start getting involved again somehow! No doubt you are still with LCER – you might remember me from the 90s (Lynne Armstrong), unfortunately (for me) once again a Labour councillor – only town, but plenty of stress!

  • MikeHomfray

    Could this be part of the problem, though?
    If councillors who hold down jobs and also serve as councillors have so little ‘normal’ time to do ‘normal’ things, then no wonder all political representatives are seen as somewhat weird.
    The cabinet system appears to have reduced the meeting load for many councillors, although not in Hackney by the look of it
    I also know that if anyone tried to tell me when I could go on holiday or expect me to consult them on the matter, the response would not be printable

  • gunnerbear

    Bet you’ll miss the allowances though….

    Schedule 1: Members of the Council serving between May 2012 and May 2013

    Councillor’s Name: Councillor Luke Akehurst
    Basic Allowance £9,943.50

    SRA Role for which SRA is payable: £13,000.00 Chair of Health in Hackney Scrutiny

    Total Allowance payable in 2012/13: £22,943.50

    Nearly £23K of taxpayers cash to be a Councillor…that’s within spitting distance of the average national wage…..not bad for a part-time job.

    • Ian Young

      There are many who share your view that no one goes into politics to serve the public and they are all venal, corrupt and self serving to line their pockets. But lucky for you there are plenty of men and women on white horses, like Le Pen, Farage, Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik, who are above politics and will come and save us from the corrupt elites.

      • gunnerbear

        Ehh? What does that mean? You’ve utterly lost me. I said the same thing to local Tory Councillors – huge amounts of money for a part-timer paid on the public purse.

        Hellfire, LA got £23K for part-time work – an MP only gets £66k for full time work which means either ‘local spivs’ are over paid or that ‘national spivs’ should be made more….
        …which is it?

        Farage above politics? What are you on about? As to a load of foreign politicians….I don’t care if they are good, bad, looney or indifferent. Let their voters pay for ’em.

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