About Abi Brown

Conservative councillor for Meir Park ward, and Leader of City of Stoke-on-Trent Conservatives inbetween running various businesses and looking after my young family. Cut me in half, I say 'Stoke-on-Trent' through the middle, like a stick of rock :D

Why pennies do matter

The best way to start a blog is often with a cliche. Look after the pennies, we are told, however contrast this to the claim often thrown at those in opposition – you’re missing the big picture. Can you do both? Of course – anyone who decides to forgo their small indulgences in favour of saving for a house, a car, a holiday is doing just that. So why the brickbats when a councillor suggests a bit of care with small budgets?

One of the first blogs I ever wrote focused on my confusion as a new councillor at the amount of letters I get from in response to emails I’ve sent. Why can’t you email me back? I appreciate that some things have to be sent as a letter – but the ultimate snub surely to cost effectiveness is to say that one letter to one person won’t break the budget, as I have been told recently by one organisation in response to a Freedom of Information request I made. Continue reading

Rummaging In The City’s “ËœLost Property’ Box

An announcement last week by Housing Minister Grant Shapps over Community Right to Reclaim Land has certainly struck a chord with me (http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/newsroom/1833125).

The principle behind this is to bring back into use empty public sector land and buildings, but the bit that really resonated with me was the proposal to simplify the process that means members of the public can call for empty public sector buildings and land to be sold, so they can be brought back into use.

So where does this fit with Meir Park & Sandon ward? Tucked behind a pair of padlocked gates, part way up Lightwood Road, lies Pittsburgh House, a former City Council dementia care home. Up close, this is a very grand property indeed that has lived a varied life, including time as a childrens home, before finally closing its doors several years ago. Since then, it has slowly fallen into disrepair, with occasional reports to local councillors of anti social behaviour.

Following my first “Ëœcomplaint’ about ASB there in June, I decided to find out what was planned for Pittsburgh House, and the answer was not a great deal. Is it up for sale? And if so, why not? Certainly, Pittsburgh House is not going to reopen, so with the enthusiasm of the keen DiYer, I thought this grand old lady might make a fantastic large family home? Or, in its wooded location, a good site for redevelopment? Who knows, but certainly standing empty and in limbo is not in anyone’s best interests. Empty buildings still cost money ““ security, essential maintenance, plus the loss of value that being empty naturally adds to the fabric of a property.

For me, Grant Shapps is talking about property such as Pittsburgh House. It is clearly never going to be reopened by the Council or other partners, and the best value for the residents of Stoke-on-Trent is to sell it. So you could say I have made it my mission to find a new life for Pittsburgh House ““ I’ve trampled round the footpaths surrounding it, spoken to those who have been involved with it, and have pestered to get “Ëœa plan’ in place for Pittsburgh House. A few weeks ago, myself and Cllr Clive Brian took the Council Chief Executive there to see the situation for himself. And things are finally moving as Pittsburgh House is up for sale.

But Pittsburgh House is just the tip of the iceberg. In the course of my investigations, I have come across a number of other properties all across the City that lie empty and in various states of disrepair. There are plans in place to review the buildings used everyday by the Council, but so far, this doesn’t seem to cover the empty buildings dotted around the City that really ought to be looked at. Equally, the small pieces of land, leftover from developments that lie fenced off and unused, gathering rubbish. We are not talking building plots here, just patches of ground that could become small community areas or parking spaces or residential gardens.

In the current economic climate, it makes sense to have “Ëœa plan’ for property across the City. It might not be feasible or economically sensible to sell every property that is empty or about to become vacant ““ and I certainly don’t subscribe to selling off properties that are the City’s “Ëœfamily silver’ ““ but leaving smaller premises empty and rotting, year after year, is in no-one’s best interests.

Copshurst Quarry ““ What Will Happen to Stoke-on-Trent’s “ËœGreen & Pleasant Land’?

Yes, you heard it here first, Stoke-on-Trent is not all pits and pots (though we are a lot of that too).

When I worked in rural Shropshire about 10 years ago, I could see the look in people’s eyes when I said I lived in Stoke-on-Trent, they thought the Potteries was all smog and grimy streets. I don’t think any of them believed that we had trees (gasp) and parks (shudder). But we do ““ and not just that, we also have big stretches of open land on almost every side of the City within our boundaries.

One of these, a natural valley, runs down almost the length of one side of the ward of Meir Park and Sandon, and on into the Longton South ward. There is a history of small scale quarrying at Copshurst, however in recent years this has turned into far bigger scale quarrying, which unsurprisingly has had a knock-on effect in the local community.

Lightwood Road runs between Rough Close and Longton, a pleasant residential road with schools at either end and a 40mph speed limit. There’s steady traffic flow all day and often complaints of speeding, so hardly the best place for up to 30 movements of 20 ton trucks per day, heading out towards Stone or down to the A50. Lightwood Road wasn’t constructed for that kind of heavy usage and as a result, the road is suffering.

What was once a relatively low-key quarrying operation has in recent months turned into something much bigger ““ with a retrospective planning application now awaiting consideration at the City Council to increase the quarry size from the current 2.8 hectares to 5.7 hectares in total, with a request for 140 lorry movements a day, which will all turn onto Lightwood Road.

The application is retrospective so we already have an idea of what it could soon be like if it is granted, and the www.stoplightwoodquarry.co.uk website shows a number of quite alarming photos of what happens when 20 ton trucks pull out of the quarry now, along with the impact of such a sizeable operation on the area around the quarry. Objections to the application have come not just from the Lightwood area, but also from Florence, Rough Close and Cocknage.

No one in Lightwood has a problem with the quarry itself ““ it’s been there for years and is an accepted part of the area, however the sudden increase in activity and scale, confirmed by a retrospective planning application at the end of last year, means that the originally small quarry operation could very soon become something else entirely. Having put in a retrospective application also puts a stop to any enforcement action by the City Council on current activities at the quarry, which includes the unauthorised expansion of quarrying, not to mention regular reports of mud on the road (despite the site having a wheel wash).

So what will happen to Copshurst Quarry? The application looks likely to go before Development Management in February, and hopefully will be rejected. The local Lightwood Residents Group have campaigned hard, with articles in the Sentinel and on BBC Radio Stoke, and have also got the backing of local councillors in Meir Park & Sandon, Longton South and also across the local authority border at the County Council, along with the local MP.

More information can be found at www.stoplightwoodquarry.co.uk

Localism in Stoke-on-Trent ““ An Underworked Muscle?

The recently announced Localism Bill, which promises to return powers to local communities and councillors, has set me thinking a bit about the actual powers local councillors have already, particularly in Stoke-on-Trent.

I think I’m probably not alone in entering the Council and giving off an “ËœI’m going to change the world!’ vibe to everyone I met, though I did know before being elected that it’s not quite that simple. There are systems and processes, and committees and portfolio holders to work with to achieve change, and sometimes it does seem that the wheels of change turn so so slowly. And yes, it’s frustrating at times, but for me personally, I draw a great deal of satisfaction of making small but significant changes in my ward and AIT area (the larger Meir area), which helps me keep plugging away at the bigger things I want to see happen City-wide.

A lot of residents are aware that local councillors countrol pots of money to spend in their areas, and this represents where Stoke-on-Trent is already having a go at localism, though by no means do I think we’ve cracked it totally! For example, in Meir we have quite a lot of discussions about what people think of the area. I’m not going to perpetuate the myths that surround Meir by repeating them, but I’ve lived here for nearly 10 years and to be honest I can’t think of many areas of Stoke-on-Trent I’d rather live. However, to help improve the imagine of Meir, the local councillors have been working together with partners, local residents associations and businesses, to make Meir look nice. The flower baskets on the roundabout and in Weston Road all came about following a discussion one afternoon about making Meir better for everyone, and have been paid for from the ward budgets. They also present an attractive “Ëœgateway’ into the City from those entering along the A50 or A520.

So if we are already doing localism, what is this blog about? We are often criticised for being parochial as a council, where councillor fights councillor over which area “Ëœdeserves’ investment, all based on our belief that we are more deserving than our City-wide colleagues, and in a way that does happen, but really as councillors we already have that “Ëœmuscle’ ourselves. We already have access to a considerable amount of money in our ward budgets, but do we really spend it as we should?

I can’t comment on what other councillors spend their ward budget on, each area has its own priorities and needs, however I do think we sometimes lose perspective on the influence we have through the ward budget. I asked a friend who is a councillor on another Council what he would need to do if he wanted to get a new litter bin sited in his ward. After having to persuade his fellow ward councillors to support him, he would then need to persuade the portfolio holder and also the officer responsible for litter bins ““ not a quick and easy process. Contrast that to Stoke-on-Trent councillors ““ in my ward, we have already agreed a general “Ëœpot’ for additional litter bins and all I need to do is submit the location to our Local Office and wait for the bin to arrive. Even if we hadn’t already agreed a general fund for litter bins, I would only need to persuade my fellow councillors.

A small example maybe, but how about a bigger one? Allotments. We have a waiting list locally and few rarely become available, so we’re investigating creating some more. This goes hand in hand with the Healthy Eating project (run by a local health worker and Neos520, the Bethel Church community cafe) to encourage local residents to rely less on processed foods and takeaways, and cook healthy meals for themselves. Our local schools and residents associations are also involved.

How about Youth facilities? The ward budget helped fund several projects over the summer holidays, and we have also recently agreed funding for equipment for the Christian Growth Centre (CGC), based in Meir Park, to help with the sessions they already run in local schools, alongside the Council’s Uth Service.

Community Safety? Fear of crime and anti social behaviour (again linked to myths about the area ““ the crime rate in Meir is much lower than many people believe) led us to work with the Longton NPU in a project to supply residents with simple crime prevention equipment. We paid for the equipment, the police provided it and in some cases fitted it too. In Meir Park, a simple thing such as cutting back groundcover in ASB hot spots following a discussion with local officers and an impromptu site visit, has not only improved the appearance of the area but also hopefully helped the police tackle what I hope is a decreasing level of ASB in those areas.

But all this relies on councillors getting out there, and “Ëœdoing’ localism with residents, partners and the community at large. We don’t have millions to spend, but we can make a difference with what we have, we just need to realise it.

Opportunity Knocks ““ Full Council 9 December 2010

A lot of things were discussed at full Council last Thursday and I could blog about many of them, but I thought I’d blog today on something that was just a bit different.

Petitions are often submitted to full Council, and the petitioner can request they are looked at by a relevant commitee ““ usually the petitions are to do with straight forward issues ““ parking problems, potential loss of services, or potentially controversial new services in particular areas ““ however we had one yesterday that was a suggestion, and specifically a suggestion to erect statues of two internationally-renowned heavy rock musicians somewhere in the City.

A suggestion has wafted around that this was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek petition, not really serious and a bit of a joke. Well, maybe it is, but I actually think it’s quite a good idea. The musicians in question ““ Slash, former lead guitarist with Guns’n’Roses and latterly of Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver, and Lemmy from Motorhead ““ both spent their early years in the City, and have large respective followings. Yes, another “Ëœfamous son’ of the Potteries, Robbie Williams, was not mentioned, and I have heard it said that this exclusion means it wasn’t a “Ëœserious suggestion’, but I don’t think we should discount it just because someone didn’t come with a fully costed, planned out idea ““ big oaks from little acorns grow!

We have a great many names who could feature in a Walk of Fame or a Park of Celebration, with names such as Gertie Gitana, Havergal Brian, Nick Hancock, Arnold Bennett alongside Lemmy and Slash, all celebrating the many creative individuals from Stoke-on-Trent who have gone on to feature in the popular culture of their time. It doesn’t have to be with formal statues, and would be an ideal use for one of the many smaller parks in the City.

No doubt some naysayer somewhere will doubt the pull of such a park ““ but in my defence, I hold up the famous Paris cemetery of Pere Lachaise, which is a tourist destination in its own right. Who would ever think a graveyard would attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, who wander between the graves of Jim Morrison, Noel Coward and George Bizet, amongst many many others? The cemetery was originally considered too far from the centre of Paris to be viable, but careful marketing began to attract people to the handful of “Ëœcelebrity’ graves; it now has over 330,000 “Ëœresidents’. Perhaps a bit morbid, but I think it illustates the influence of popular culture.

Of course, as a City we are not great at celebrating our own. Perhaps this should be a twin project, with a Park of Pottery also? So little celebrates the many great potters that gave us our name, and with the exception of the Potteries Museum, nowhere can you see the greats all together. Maybe we should just have a Park of the Potteries, celebrating all who have passed this way and gone on to make a great mark on the world? We could then include Reginald Mitchell, Oliver Lodge and others? A few statues of famous Potteries folk already exist around the City ““ Josiah Wedgwood outside Stoke Station, Sir Stanley Matthews in the City Centre and also outside the Britannia Stadium ““ and there is no reason why these can’t remain in their landmark positions, but a site that brought them altogether would really be something special and also probably a UK-first.

But then, perhaps our lack of properly celebrating the people who have made Stoke-on-Trent the place it is, is the problem? We are so unassuming that we think “Ëœour’ heroes don’t really figure on the national stage ““ and our history is “Ëœnothing special’, despite people like Matthew Rice of Emma Bridgewater highlighting that despite the industries that made places like Hull and Northampton, nowhere else is known by its main trade as we are ““ the Potteries.

We need to learn to love our City again ““ don’t get me wrong, I’m not pretending everything in the garden is rosy, but we have a lot of great things going for us and we need to see them as the opportunity they are, as other cities have done (look at Liverpool and the Albert Docks for a similar rags to riches story). We are blessed with fantastic parks all across the City, and now a suggestion that we celebrate two sons of Stoke who have made it (albeit that Slash and Lemmy may have only spent less than 20 years between them here, in their formative year). Let’s put the two together, take the opportunity, who knows where it might lead?

Consultations, Revelations and Common Sense

Tonight [Monday] I attended the hastily-called public meeting to discuss the implications of the closure of Meir CEC.

This was a result of a situation not far from Daniel in the Lion’s Den a few weeks ago, when cabinet member Mervyn Smith turned up for an informal Let’s Talk budget event to be confronted by about 100 Meir residents, wanting to know why the Community Education Centre was potentially under threat of closure as part of the budget process.

Before I go any futher, for those who aren’t aware of what is happening, in advance of the government issuing the City Council with the details of the amount of money it is going to be given for the next year’s budget, and pre-empting the fact that it is likely to be a good deal less than that previously received, the Cabinet have collated a consultation scheme of savings of varying severity, to deal with the anticpated shortfall. These have been sorted into various traffic light colours, both dependent upon how easy they are to achieve and also how much money they would save. At the far end of the spectrum, a big reduction in money received could lead to the loss of several libraries, a significant proportion of Children’s Centres and numerous other services. As you can imagine, opening the books in such a way has caused a bit of a splash.

Whether I agree with a number of the savings suggested is probably a blog for another day (the short answer is “I don’t”), but for now I just wanted to blog on the implications of closing the Meir CEC for my community, where I live and the area I represent on the Council. I don’t think anyone imagines for a second that shutting such a centre is going to be easy, or that it won’t have an impact on the local community, however what has struck me at both the meetings I have attended at the Meir CEC about the potential closure, is the total lack of common sense exhibited in where Meir is now and the community assets we have.

I was totting up in my mind the other night what I have in my ward ““ 5 pubs, 3 chip shops, 2 high schools and 2 swimming pools, amongst many other things. One high school has been rebuilt at great expense, the other will shut in the next 18 months. Both have a swimming pool, but only one has a swimming pool that you could swim in (the other is apparently not fit for use) – and it’s not at the school you would think it was at.

Within less than half a mile of each other, I have a Local Office that is really too small for purpose, a library, a youth centre and a purpose built Community Education Centre, 3 of which have had piles of money spent on them within the last 10 years ““ but at no point did anyone stop and consider that maybe, just maybe, amalgamating premises might be a good idea? This situation makes me want to bang my head on the floor, because it means we are in a really difficult corner with where we go now. I don’t want to lose any facilities in my ward if we can save them, but the complete and utter lack of foresight in planning is just unbelievable.

The funny thing is that at both meetings, this crazy situation has been raised by numerous members of the public. They want to know why we haven’t amalgamated services into a couple of premises, because after all, it’s common sense. Perhaps harking back to my blog last week about feeling you have to defend the Council just because you’re part of it now, I really shake my head in dispair at those whose footsteps I follow in. What were you thinking??

So, back to tonight’s meeting. It was quite nice to see the portfolio holder for community services, Terry Follows, saying he didn’t want to see the Meir CEC shut, and I hope that he will join with the local councillors of Meir in making that very clear to the Cabinet and the rest of the Council. However, I also hope he ponders on where strategic thinking comes into play and uses his portfolio, which is in a pivotal position with relation to community services, to really think out of the box. Places like Meir are relying on it.

Vanguard ““ Simply Misunderstood?

I’ve blogged before about the problems of stepping into someone else’s shoes as a new councillor ““ and it’s not just on local issues that you notice this. The subject of Vanguard, the consultancy firm brought into Stoke-on-Trent City Council by our Chief Exec John van der Laarschott, seems to me at times to be just another of those things where the new councillors missed the “Ëœbig discussion’ and are now frantically trying to work out what it is we’ve missed.

Or have we?

Vanguard have been working with Kier, the Council’s housing maintenance contractors, initially, and as a member of the Improving Communities Scrutiny Committee, I have seen several reports on what is happening, and have also taken up the opportunity to visit the Kier office in Cromer Road and talk to staff. Having done this and spoken to other councillors and officers, it seems to me that really the problem is that a lot of people, not just new councillors, don’t “Ëœget’ what Vanguard are all about.

The simple illustration that Vanguard are a consultants and will bring savings, doesn’t really do justice to what is actually happening. Let me make it clear that this blog isn’t intended to be a banner-waving exercise for Vanguard, but simply my view of what they are doing in our Council. It’s also my take on what I see happening now, because don’t forget, I’ve only been a councillor since May!

The housing stock in the City is split into 3 sections, similar to the parliamentary constituencies ““ North, South and Central, with teams of workers for each area, all based in Cromer Road, Northwood (which is in Central). The Vanguard approach is to look at the processes in place and refocus them on the customer, which means cutting out many of the steps that really doesn’t benefit or interest them.

Speaking to the staff at Kier, both those in a managerial position and also spending time with a Kier tradesman, really showed me this in practice, and that the change in working style for responsive repairs (which is currently only in place in the Central area) really brought this home to me. We visited tenants in the South of the City who told me umpteen visits before an issue was sorted was the norm, whereas tenants in Central got it done first time, at a time that suited them. Having seen the statistics on housing repairs, I know what I saw wasn’t put on ““ responsive repairs in Central really are better.

So how does that stack up with saving money? I guess you could say it is the unintended consequence of improving the service to customers. In the “Ëœold’ system, a supervisor went out first to gauge a repair, followed by a trademan, when he was free. If the job needed parts, he would go off to get them. If they weren’t easily available, he could be gone all day, and rebook to come back another time, when the part was available. In the “Ëœnew’ system, a tradesman goes out at a time convenient to the tenant, with a van fully stocked with items. If he needs a part, it is delivered to him so the job gets done faster. Under the “Ëœold’ system, a week to 3 months for a job to be finished (start to finish) was the norm. Under the “Ëœnew’ system, it is often done in a couple of days maximum. Cutting out the unneeded steps will hopefully lead to a position where responsive repairs are literally that ““ responsive. Some of the tenants I met in South told me they just don’t bother reporting minor things as it isn’t worth the hassle of waiting for weeks for a repair, so these minor repairs eventually turn into bigger jobs, and are no longer really responsive.

I have chatted through the Vanguard approach with friends and colleagues outside the Council, and really it is the good application of private business practices, something that has been long missing in local government, however delivered in what I perceive to be a “Ëœstate of mind’ approach rather than a prescriptive way. One colleague asked me, “If it’s so obvious, why haven’t we done it before?”, and I did wonder about this. The explanation however seems to be that what Vanguard do is so different and back-to-basics that it is actually ripping up what we did before and starting from scratch, thinking the unthinkable, which even in cutting edge private industry is knife-edge stuff.

So am I any clearer about Vanguard? Yes, and also the potential Vanguard can bring to the rest of the Council. There is massive potential to change the way the Council works for the better, and I do have confidence that the Vanguard approach can help change this, but really elected members need to understand why we need these changes and what is behind them.

Drug House Closure, Meir ““ A Tale of Stoke-on-Trent Community Spirit

Broadway is a leafy part of the Meir Park & Sandon ward, bordered by Longton High and its grounds, the A50, and the shops on Weston Road.

It is comprised largely of privately owned terraced and semi detached houses, Broadway has a very active Residents Association and long time residents will tell you how not so many years ago, properties in this area were put up for sale and sold within the week, so desirable an area was it.

However in recent months, an issue of growing concern has been festering away in Broadway ““ and today saw it finally burst. Just after 10am this morning, District Judge Taylor granted permission for Staffordshire Police to close a property on Broadway Place for two months, following a catalogue of statements from local residents and others about activities at the property since the beginning of the year.

From the front door of the property, it is less than 20metres to the entrance to Longton High, and some of those who came foward to provide the evidence for the closure included teachers and others connected with the school. The sale and use of Class A drugs from the house caused massive concern for everyone in the locality ““ characterised by multiple visits, day and night, to the property, leading to arguments and shouting at all hours, causing great distress to neighbours and other residents.

The district judge commented that there was “Ëœoverwhelming evidence’ that the activities taking place at the property caused disruption and distress to local residents and the school, and also commended local residents for standing up to this serious nuisance in their neighbourhood. He said he hoped that this would be a clear example to others elsewhere in the City that there is hope for their community to be protected against such behaviour.

The court order was unopposed and hours later the house had been secured, with a number of large posters, giving details of the order, on display. Houses in the area were also leafleted to inform them of what had happened. When I visited the property this afternoon, there was an air of calm around the area, with a steady stream of local residents coming to see if what they’d all been hoping for had finally happened. Several residents I talked to spoke of their relief, explaining that they’d just had enough in the end and were more than happy to help the police with evidence to return their neighbourhood to how it had been.

As a local councillor, today has been full of ups and downs ““ to listen to the evidence behind the closure order, the day to day events residents and others lived through, was humbling, however to hear what that same community did, working with the police to turn that situation around, was truly fantastic, and I have nothing but unstinting respect for those whose statements contributed to gaining the order, and for our local police ““ led by Insp Sharrard-Williams – in achieving such a good result for the community. Local councillors’ small part in all this was supporting the Residents Association and providing money for securing the premises, something we were all more than happy to do.

Last night, the house in Broadway Place remained dark and empty, and hopefully residents will have their first night of decent sleep in quite some time, while the message goes out strongly into the local community that drug dealing and anti social behaviour are not acceptable here anymore.

Life As A Stoke-on-Trent Councillor – So Far, So Good

By Cllr Abi Brown [Meir Park & Sandon]

If a week is a long time in politics, then six weeks seems like a lifetime.

I’ve attended two full Councils, made my first speech and started to get into the routine of Council work, though I still don’t feel any surer about the answer to the most asked question of, “So what’s it like being a councillor?”

Although I have some experience in local government and politics, I didn’t expect to be quite so busy ““ I am a fairly well organised person, but trying to run my council diary and fitting in ward work alongside my work diary and family commitments is tough at times. Prioritising what needs doing can also be difficult ““ a few weeks ago, I had to send apologies to a committee meeting as I feel that important ward meetings should take precedence. I will now never get a gold star for 100% attendance, however I was able to have a big input into the priorities for my ward over the next 12 months.

The amount of paper arriving for me has diminished, though I am still trying to get my head round the system for council post. I aim to nip into the Civic Centre at least once a week to empty my pigeon hole, yet almost without fail an envelope of council post arrives either the night before or the morning after. It is interesting to see which departments and organisations are now almost entirely paper-free, using e-bulletins for briefings, and contrast to those who must be almost solely responsible for the eradication of a rainforest each every month. Most annoying are those who email me a letter, then post it to me themselves (rather than in a bundle with other post) and finally put a copy in my pigeon hole too for good measure. I am considering setting up a system of fines for the worst offenders.

One of my election commitments was having a regular surgery, which starts in July. I’ve also set up a blog (www.abibrown.wordpress.com) and you can follow me on Twitter too (@abibrown1), though I’ve also been getting out and about at various groups. I’m still deciding whether it’s a good thing to be told, “We thought you’d turn up,” when you arrive at a small community event. I suspect some think this enthusiasm will trail off, but as Conservative members will tell you, I am this enthusiastic all the time about being out in all weathers, chatting to people and campaigning.

My family are getting used to it ““ my parents are very proud, as are the rest of my family, however for my 4 year old son, it’s just another job Mummy does, albeit one that sometimes requires him to be dragged along to strange events with strange people who want to talk to him (he is quite shy). At times, it does require some juggling and I can’t always attend things, so instead I prioritise what I go to and get individual briefings where necessary, but then the same is the case for any working councillor.

The second most asked question at the moment is, “But are you enjoying it?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the answer to that is yes. Making a difference in your community is what does it for me