What do you do?
I am a Town, District and County Councillor with no political party , usually called an Independent Councillor.
How did you get into it?
I was a Parent Governor at my childrens’ Primary School and the MP came to open a room. There was a bit of a delay before the ceremony could go ahead (wrong colour ribbon for cutting!) and I talked to him about a funding bid I had made for new windows at the school. I was asked afterwards if I would like to stand for the Town Council. Although I found I loved the job I decided quite quickly that I didn’t want to be a political party member. Being freed from this gives me the chance to work for residents pure and simple without having to spend time telling everyone why one or other political party is doing a bad job.
What's the best thing about what you do?
Problem solving. This can be in a variety of forms for example finding a way to sort an issue out that is troubling an individual resident, getting a service to work for a whole group of people that has broken down or putting together the funding to make something possible which will improve things for residents across the area I serve as a Councillor in. It often involves meetings but there is a lot of fact finding and correspondence needed as well.
What’s the most difficult part of what you do?
Waiting for answers about hard to solve problems and not being able to do anything practical until they arrive. No answer at all from someone or an answer with an agreement to action which then does not happen are the worst.
What advice have you got for people who’d like to get into what you do?
If you like people, want to solve problems rather than just describe them, don’t get bored by long and sometimes complicated meetings, are prepared to send emails well into the evening, have lots of energy and the ability not to give up when things take a while to work then you would probably enjoy being a Councillor. Think hard if you do consider this as an occupation; the hours are long if you want to do it properly and the pay is low if you are a rank and file Councillor. Make sure you think about whether you want to be supported by but also bound by a Political Party or whether you might feel more able to effect change without one. Talk to serving Councillors to find out more before standing.
Ruth O’Keeffe MBE
Independent Town and District Councillor, Lewes Priory Ward
Independent County Councillor, Lewes Division
ZoneZine is your local online community magazine for our area (zones) covering Ovingdean, Woodingdean, Saltdean, Rottingdean, Telscombe Cliffs & Village, Peacehaven, Newhaven and near-by.
We are always on the lookout for contributors.
If you have any photographs, videos or articles you would like to see published on ZoneZine then please contact us here.