iFAQ: Standing down

Approaching the upcoming local elections, a number of sitting Medway councillors have decided to stand down and not seek re-election. As such, we contacted all of them to ask a few questions about their experiences as a councillor.

As usual, we told all of them that we would publish their responses unedited. You can find them below in the order they were received.

What was your best experience as a Medway councillor?

I have many good memories representing Twydall. It is a great place to live.  I have used my ward improvement money fairly across the ward to improve everybody’s lives. Great people in Twydall and I have been very pleased to represent them.
Cllr Dorte Gilry, Labour, Twydall

Being able to help individuals who for one reason or another had not been able to obtain the help they needed to improve their quality of life, whether that related to parking issues, planning, litter or anything else. In one case a lady had been housebound for months as she was waiting for the council to undertake some basic refurbishments to make her house more accessible, in fact she had never lodged any of the necessary paperwork. Often misunderstandings or poor communication cause considerable problems so it was always satisfying to be able to unblock some of this and help make a difference.
Cllr Phil Hall, Conservative, Strood North

My best experience as a Medway Councillor was to see it come to fruition as a Unitary Authority having been a key proponent for it, and then witnessing the positive change it was able to make during the Labour Government funded first ten years.
Cllr Glyn Griffiths, Labour, Twydall

Representing Watling residents ofc! Met some fantastic people along the way and some I now call friends! Also taking the long-held Lib Dem seat! Was worth all my/the hard work! 
Cllr Asha Saroy, Conservative, Watling

Working with my constituents on small projects which make a significant change to their daily lives. Working with dedicated council officers who try their best despite extraordinarily challenging circumstance. Seeing PCSOs doing their best for the community. 
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard, Independent, Twydall

What was your worst experience as a Medway councillor?

Worst experience, well it has got to be a very long Children’s committee, which lasted passed midnight.
Cllr Dorte Gilry, Labour, Twydall

The worst thing was having completely inaccurate, untrue, unfounded and misleading information published about me in The Political Medway.
Cllr Phil Hall, Conservative, Strood North

My worst experience as a Medway Councillor has been the consequences of nine years of Tory austerity – undoing much of the good done in the early years, and bringing the Council to its knees financially.
Cllr Glyn Griffiths, Labour, Twydall

Ouuufff where to begin?!? I have many which I’m sure you don’t mind me sharing:
– being screamed at and called a ‘fucking paki c*nt’ and ‘to go home’ many times over by a clearly intoxicated, random person waking along a road when I was out on a residents doorstep talking about some parking issues. And yes, I did report this to the police.
– being advised to sit separately from my fellow BME councillors at a meeting (I think there was fear of a conspiracy!??!)
– being stalked.
– probably something else but can’t remember.
Cllr Asha Saroy, Conservative, Watling

I don’t think I have a worse experience but there are many issues I would outline:
– being asked not to question too much at O&S because it was seen as “stepping on the toes” of Cabinet
– being removed from my O&S committee without even being asked because I had just had a child and was told I “wouldn’t have time”
– the daily sexism and patronising from fellow councillors who view first time Councillors as incompetent unless they are “yes” men
– the fact that Full Council is a pure rubber stamping of Cabinet decisions
– Listening to councillors in full council bang on about the past continuously instead of focusing on the future
– Listening to endless debates in Council about who “loves Medway more” or “who puts down Medway most” – it’s depressing and pointless and an insult to the few people who actually show up to listen to full council meetings
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard, Independent, Twydall

What one piece of advice would you offer new councillors taking their seats in May?

Listen, show empathy and always answer your emails and return phone calls.
Cllr Dorte Gilry, Labour, Twydall

I’d advise any new councillor to always do what they think is right and not what is politically expedient. On the odd occasion your views may differ from the local party, speak to them in private and see if a compromise or solution can be found – it often can – rather than throwing your toys of the pram. Finally, don’t get ground down by party politics, concentrate on the bread and butter issues of helping your constituents.
Cllr Phil Hall, Conservative, Strood North

My advice to new councillors is to be pragmatic in seeking to achieve change and recognise that setting priorities is equally about identifying what is less important – its about choices, particularly so while the Council remains hamstrung by Government austerity.
Cllr Glyn Griffiths, Labour, Twydall

I’m quite ‘geeky’ and read the committee papers. It is important to make time to read the committee/council papers!! A lot of time and effort go into them and reading ahead helps the committee/meeting function and your contribution to the meeting.
Cllr Asha Saroy, Conservative, Watling

Stand your ground, don’t be whipped and focus on local issues for local people. National politics should not have a bearing on council matters. Try not to get frustrated or disheartened if you are doing this to try and make small improvements. 
Cllr Anne-Claire Howard, Independent, Twydall

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