Thursday, 9 November 2017

Fits & Starts

Interesting start to the month when alongside other councillors we met with the body who looks into the pay & conditions of councillors.  One way they do this is by going around different authorities to get feedback off us, both cabinet members - those who lead on particular area of the council such as Education - and the rest of us 'backbenchers'.  It felt good that they were listening to our comments, and definitely not just a box ticking exercise.

The rest of the month has been one of fits & starts - some weeks few or no meetings or appointments, another week full to capacity (well it felt like it!)

I attended two council meetings which do not meet very often during the year.  Also with both it was the first time since May so we needed to elect new chair/vice chair, and it turns out that I am now vice chair on both.  As it happened I then chaired the Trustees meeting, which administers specific pots of money that have been entrusted to the council to allocate to worthy applicants.  A bit of a challenge to do this without any prior notice or preparation but I think I managed it quite well.

In the busier week that followed I had Student Liaison - my other vice chair - 
Poverty group, and full council.  Just a bit more on the Poverty meeting as this can be quite a heavy topic yet we had two excellent & inspiring presentations.  One of these was on how a Swansea community, helped in the main by a local
housing association, managed to provide meals during the summer to bridge the gap between term time. Such a positive project, and a positive outcome.


Wednesday, 11 October 2017

A varied month

During my time as a councillor I have done what I can to support initiatives aimed at reducing poverty.  There are a number of groups address this issues from various perspectives, one being the Financial Inclusion Steering Group (FISG), with part of its remit to encourage partnership working, and which I have recently started attending.  Having now served a full term I feel a bit surer of my role as a councillor and feel I can now give this more attention.

We are still keeping busy tending the area around Mayhill Washing 'Lake'.  Husband Jeff is secretary of the Friends of group and really helps retain the momentum.  There are still jobs to do over Autumn & Winter, including being ever watchful to ensure the area doesn't go back to the bad old days of black bag flytipping.

A sad reflection on the times, one of the training courses I have attended has been about radicalism.  The internet & social media has opened up vast opportunities but also threats as people can be indoctrinated behind closed doors without anyone being any the wiser.

Our regular Audit meeting included annual reports from the Welsh Audit Office, fortunately good ones too!  And it's the time of year when the council approves (or not!) the annual accounts.  As it happens this is something else which comes through Audit first.

I went to the AGM of the local credit union as I am the council representative to their board.  There are plenty of places where one can access loans but credit unions also encourage people who become members to save as well.  Over the coming months I hope I can do more to spread the word about them.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Going Batty!

Not so many meetings, and the training has eased off this month, with just the one I attended. This looked in detail at the Social Services & Wellbeing Act which came into force in April.  It used the usual presentation & talk style but we are gradually being encouraged to do more via the e-learning platform.

Occasionally we have an extra council meeting, as was the case this month.  It celebrated the work done by long standing councillors who have since stood down, 
by awarding them the title of Alderman or Alderwoman.  I wouldn't want all meetings to have the pomp & ceremony that these do, but once in a while it makes a change, and I'm all for saying 'thank you' as much as possible.

Further progress with our Friends of group - Mayhill Washing Lake & Community Food Garden - as we have made more new contacts to help support this project, especially with the food garden and applying for grants.  And we ended the month with an excellent Bat Walk up the Black Road and were rewarded with both a lovely evening and lots of bats!


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Training, Meetings and a Hearing!

Had some busy patches in July, partly due to ongoing training, one of which was a very interesting session on dementia.  It certainly helps to have a better understanding of what a dementia sufferer may well be going through.

I attended an extra Hill Trust meeting where we looked at ways to market the Phoenix Centre more effectively.  It was very productive with a lot of ideas bounced around.  The centre is a great asset to Townhill yet there are people who live locally who still don't even know it exists!  Together I am sure we can introduce improvements which will ensure it's future, and be of even more benefit to the community.

A Hearing?  Yet another new one for me as this is something that crops up from time to time linked to the Licensing Committee, where three out of the full committee hear one-off license applications, and decide whether or not to grant them.  A bit of a steep learning curve as I was only drafted in at the last minute, but it was interesting enough (albeit somewhat lengthy, from 9.15 to nearly 1pm!) that I would not be adverse to being involved again.

In complete contrast with standard councillor life, I have managed to get to my Voices on the Hill choir a couple of times.  A distant cry from what I usually sing as in the past few weeks we have been trying out relatively contemporary pop numbers such as "Roar" by Katy Perry, and Coldplay's "Fix you".  Definitely different!


Thursday, 13 July 2017

Getting Back into the Flow

A bit late with my blog for last month.  But the last few weeks, since the beginning of the new council 5 year term, has been pretty busy with training, as well as some meetings continuing as normal.

I remain on most of the committees as before but with a couple of newbys, Licensing bring one.  This covers moreorless every type of licence you can think of, from food & drink, HMOs, street trading - you name it, we deal with it.  So far meetings have been about making decisions on taxi and hackney cab issues, but it's early days as I am sure my remit will broaden in time.  In any event it has been quite interesting reviewing a person's entitlement to a licence, when taking into account their circumstances.

As school governor, you may recall in my last blog

I mentioned going to Dylan Thomas School's BandAlong launch - a music project to get all of year 7 involved in forming a band.  Well, last month I went to the Summer Concert to see the outcome.  Astounding I think is one word for it, when you realise the fantastic progress they had made in such a short space of time.  They made as good a sound as many other amateur orchestras I've ever heard in the past.  I'm sure I've said this before but kids & young people never do cease to amaze me!


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The End & The Beginning

A double dose of blog today, for various reasons, as I cover both April and May.  The end of my first term as councillor and the beginning of my second - in a way it's another first!

Much of April & early May was taken up with door knocking, to encourage people to vote in the local election on 4th May - a lot of hard work but at least I had my reward by being re-elected. Nonetheless I had a smattering of meetings including Governors, and full council.  Plus we had our annual photo taken - rather special as some would not be returning after May 4th.

I also went to something very rewarding at Dylan Thomas School, as I attended the launch of BandAlong, an excellent idea of getting all year 7 pupils to take up an instrument with a view to performing sometime in the summer term.  I was amazed at how much progress was made in just a short time, and impressed how the teacher seemed to get the best out of everyone.  There were lots of giggles initially - only natural when they tried and usually failed first time at getting a note - but all those who took part honestly gave their all.  Quite inspiring!

In the first few weeks of a new term a lot of time is spent on induction for new councillors and refresher training for ones carrying on.  It's also when all councillors are allocated to various committees, and I have accepted to go on Licensing - again a first.  Training this week and a meeting next week, so will let you know how I get on, and whatever else I've been doing, in my next blog.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

And yet again another first!

It's very hard to believe that I have been a councillor for nearly 5 years, and this time next month I will know whether or not my fate is sealed for another 5 - we shall see!

And quite remarkably in March I had another 'first time' experience as convenor/chair on a Scrutiny Working Party which was looking at Digital Inclusion.  Quite few issues were raised in asking whether with the increase in use of smart phones, I-pads etc is the council inadvertently leaving some people excluded, and/or doing enough to 'get people online' where possible.  In theory these working parties just take up one meeting but it's quite possible that the topic will be revisited later in the year.

For the city as a whole it was really pleasing that the long awaited City Deal, which will benefit 4 local authorities across South to West Wales to the tune of £1.3 billion, was finally signed in Swansea by the PM. 
As with any project of this size a lot of hard work has been done behind the scenes to get this off the ground, but many will say that the real work starts now.  And of course there will be setbacks along the way but one gets the feeling that a lot of enthusiasm has been created by it, so it looks likely that all those involved will make every effort to ensure it succeeds.

And as well as the usual council meetings, the Friends of Mayhill Washing Lake & Community Food Garden have met quite a few times.  It's been a very long time coming, but things are suddenly starting to happen.  It's so encouraging how many people of taking an interest, both in looking after the pond area to keep it looking good as a picnic site, and in developing a food garden which will also benefit those in the surrounding community.