Four months on…as a Green Councillor in Devon

It’s almost four months since election day, 4 months since I was elected to be a town councillor here in Honiton. There are 18 people who make up the town council here in Honiton, nine for the St Paul’s Ward and nine for my ward – St Michael’s. (here they all are) I’ve really enjoyed the first few months of my four year term in local government and here’s what I’ve been doing month by month.

Current & Former Councillors at the Honiton Mayor Making 6/6/11. I'm on the left in the turquoise cardigan.

In May I attended training a session run by the Devon Association of local Councils and attended my first town council meeting, taking on responsibility for liaising with the library and our young people, working on making the allotments a reality and dealing with recycling and waste management issues in Honiton. I attended my first planning meeting in May and appeared on the breakfast programme on Radio Devon talking about why people become councillors and why there are a shortage of willing volunteers.

With Vernon Whitlock - the new Mayor of Honiton
With Vernon Whitlock - the new Mayor of Honiton

June started off with a Green Party event at the Mackarness Hall to celebrate getting two green parish councillors elected this year – myself and Emily McIvor in Axmouth. The Honiton Mayor Making event was an enjoyable evening and interesting to see the retiring councillors and hear what they’d achieved during their time in office. I started work on looking at recycling provision in town and attended my second town council and planning meetings. The issue of prayers came up at my first policy meeting and the council voted to move them back to a period before the meeting started at 7pm. I represented the council at my first library committee meeting and had a tour of the youth club and met with the manager there. I also met with the Deputy Principal at Honiton Community College, looked round the school and discussed the student reps who will be joining the council in the autumn.

Getting to grip with recycling
Getting to grip with recycling

My family and I attended Honiton Charter Day in July and there were more meetings to work on the local plan. I took on responsibility for the sustainability section. I attended the town council meeting and a meeting about the community complex. I went to a planning meeting and a site visit of the Manor House School sports fields regarding plans for private allotments here and I made my first visit to the Mill Water School as part of my work with young people in the town. I also attended an affordable housing training session for councillors at East Devon District Council and helped write the Honiton Town Council response for the Devon County Council Waste Consultation.

August is usually a quieter month as it is traditionally summer recess for government but I was quite busy with council business. I also had my children off school for the summer! I managed to arrange the first meeting of the proposed Honiton Transition Town group – for Sept 24th and started publicising it and inviting speakers. I was elected chair of the Community Complex Fundraising Working Group and we had our first meeting. We had an EGM for the town council and a planning meeting and local plan meeting. I also visited family in the north east and took the opportunity to visit Darlington Borough Council as Darlington is a designated Cycle Demonstration Town. I met their sustainable transport officer and came back with some ideas for Honiton. The Honiton Show also took place in August and I helped out on the Honiton stall promoting the forthcoming antiques festival and other features of the town like the Glen and Roundball Hill.

Visiting Darlington Cycling Demonstration Town
Visiting Darlington Cycling Demonstration Town

Looking ahead to the next four months – and towards the end of the year. I’m hoping to get the transition town group off the ground as I feel this then has the potential to lead to so many other things and will bring together people who like me, are interested in environmental issues in Honiton. I’m also very excited about getting the fundraising started for the community complex and want to push on with improvements to cycling and recycling in town. It will be good to meet the new student reps who are joining the council as clerks in September and I have plans to visit Honiton Primary School and the Children’s Centre this autumn.

I also have responsibilities as co-ordinator of the East Devon Green Party and as fundraiser for the South West Green Party – with fundraising events at the Ottery Cycle Day on 29th August, Exeter Green Fair on Sept 1oth and a Sponsored Bike Ride in Exeter on October 8th. Our next monthly East Devon Green Party meeting is in Honiton (venue tbc) on Wednesday 14th September 2011.

4 Replies to “Four months on…as a Green Councillor in Devon”

  1. Really interesting to see the range of things you have been doing. Sounds interesting, but also… hard work. Good luck!
    Cheers, Rachel in Sheffield.

  2. Hi John – it was a basically a two hour introduction to the housing department at East Devon District Council led by Councillor Jill Elson (Portfolio Holder – Sustainable Homes and Communities) and John Golding, Head of Housing. There were workshops on meeting housing need (homelessness and allocations), tenancy conditions and dealing with antisocial behaviour, housing in the private sector and providing more affordable housing.

  3. Thanks Rachel, some of the government documents we have to read are very ‘hard work’ and some decisions I’ve had to take (voting at council) have been challenging but apart from that, a lot of it is common sense. Only snag is that your interpretation of ‘common sense’ is sometimes quite the opposite of someone elses! But that’s politics I guess.

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