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End of Term Report

Well, here it is.
I actually made it !

After the first ‘end of year report’ I wondered if I’d make an ‘End of Term’ one, mainly because of all the political nonsense and the antipathy towards me because I was now a councillor. How people’s views changed, almost overnight. I was to blame for everything. Defend myself and it was ‘typical councillor’.

However, here we are, nearly 4 years after I got persuaded to stand, saying I’d be a different type of candidate and then stupidly living up to being a different type of councillor. I say ‘stupidly’ because when you do things outside the norm people quite naturally wonder if you’re up to the job. Councillors are supposed to do this, members of a political group are supposed to do that. Had I have conformed life would have been so much easier. Let the senior politicians of ‘the Partnership’ put the message over to the public, don’t go out to town, go out of town, save the hassle of anyone carping when you’ve the right to ‘quality time’ yourself etc. etc.  

Well, I can encapsulate it thus:

First ever Group meeting and the jobs and roles are being doled out to I think it there were 25 of us.
The Leadership and Executive positions quite naturally went to the experienced councillors. Somewhat surprisingly (to me) some Chairmanships go to new councillors.

I think it was 19th on the list when we came to the council’s representative on Brecon Beacons National Park Management Committee. “Dave. Dave Rocke”, says Des “We think this would be a good one for you, representing the council on an outside body”.
“No thanks Des, not my sort of thing, don’t worry”.
“But it’s an important role”, says Des.
A colleague beside me nudges me and says “take it, or you’ll be out in the cold for 4 years”.
I was asked a third time and said “No, I don’t want it.” “I’m not an afterthought”.
You can imagine the looks. I thought ‘Dai, you’re definitely going to be different’.

Two weeks later and I was Vice-Chair of Education and Leisure Scrutiny.

Two years later I was Chair of Environment Scrutiny and I’ve stayed that, leading what I consider to be one of the best-performing (and reforming) Scrutiny Committees BG has. We’ve had members of the workforce in talking to us, we have presentations that any councillor can attend, in order that they can pass on information regarding wheelie bins, the impact of WG Green policies on the council and the people etc. etc. we’ve ensured consultation with the public.

Being different hasn’t stopped me helping to make a difference.

I was at a meeting recently and we were all trying to work out what had gone wrong in Blaenau Gwent. It wasn’t a political meeting but a discussion between pros and pols, if you see what I mean.

In my own inimitable manner I asked if anyone was a music lover, particularly Pink Floyd. “Have you ever heard the album ‘Wish You Were Here’?” I asked.
“There’s a great track called ‘Welcome to the Machine’”.

You won’t believe how many music lovers there were at that meeting !

I can only suggest that you Google it, get a version probably from YouTube and listen to it, not just the words ( which say it all ) but the remorseless way it simply keeps churning.

That’s what becoming a councillor subjects you to.
I remember my predecessor Cheryl Morris coming out of the LibDems because she felt party politics wasn’t what she was in it for. She was elected by the people for them, not for a party’s use. (Please note, it’s my paraphrasing and reading of the situation).

Well, the machine hasn’t taken me in, shaped and processed me and spat out a clone.

Actually it’s neither machine because there’s two
You see, there’s the ‘Blaenau Gwent Council’ machine where there’s the hierarchy of longstanding councillors who don’t seem to realise that things move on. Officers aren’t there simply to serve the Borough by doing things councillors say. They are there to advise, to provide options so that a modern-day ‘brainstorming’ approach to the difficult problems and sensitive issues facing us can be undertaken. They aren’t there to feed committees reports where the members who are in opposition have to find fault, clog meetings up with arrant and totally off-topic comment and the members of the ruling group simply say little and vote like robots. But also they aren’t there to run us, to control us, and to some extent that has happened, although I would not so much say they control things as we councillors have insufficient control.
The classic example is your pet hate – town, the mess it’s in and the seemingly uncoordinated approach to the enhancements and improvements that will undoubtedly evolve. How many of you have made perfectly legitimate comments about recently completed work being dug up for something else to be started, or about cars all over the place?
Another is one of my objectives – to overhaul the ‘double yellow lines’. Times have changed, and our approach to traffic management in general should. Yet where is the support for it? How effective have I been in trying to get logical things done, such as a filter line in and out of the place by the Penndragon?
I was told that a mini-roundabout at the bottom of Station Hill was out of the question – “the road’s too narrow”. 18 months later and a mini-roundabout springs up by the Cenotaph. Anyone guess which junction is the narrower?

Enough of the ‘BG Machine’ let’s talk politics, or rather bolitics as I’ve renamed them.
You’re probably aware of my start as a councillor – Cwmtillery Ward Labour Party officials over ’the Civic’ claiming I wasn’t qualified to stand. Even the manner of their protest was incorrect. They should have gone straight to the High Court. In the months that followed Labour Party diehards did nothing other then say ‘new to the job, novices’ and the like.
Until one day I pointed out that they were new to Opposition.
It was the same on here. A councillor with a modern-day approach using modern-day methods to do something almost unheard of – interact with the public, opening up a conduit to inform them and get feedback, yet it all got turned political.

I’ve got dragged in, originally because doubt was cast on my word, then I had to not simply cast doubt but launch a total repudiation of some the misleading comments made by boliticians in an attempt to get the public ‘on message’. And bingo ! two political factions fighting. However, I managed to avoid becoming totally immersed (and sinking into the morass of politics, never to been seen in an independent light again). The stirrers have all but disappeared, the detractors in the newspapers are less frequent. They’ve even declined the field day about my circumstances at work.

I get on very well with the majority of my fellow councillors. There’s quite a lot who are people-minded even though they are party members, and some very astute and commonsense councillors they are. Regrettably it’s the ‘give a dog a bad name’ syndrome, and to be absolutely blunt leaderships have been the cause of the worst of this council. I wasn’t playing politics when I said that two people should be resigning for the good of the Borough. It is my hope that the people will now do the job. Posturing and politicking are not what this Borough needs over the next 4 or 5 years.

And it needs people to keep things open, so that the public can see what’s happening in their name.
We need no more instances of schools with £500,000 deficits, of reductions in service while councillors enjoy free transport in chauffeured cars, of councillors attending perhaps 10% of meetings they could, if they took on more work, of being paid at a rate of over £1,000/meeting (although this doesn’t take into account constituency work).          

I think it’s fair to say I’ve broken the mould and that in some people’s eyes I have performed as they expected (which isn’t necessarily a compliment!!)          

I know that because 4 or 5 months ago someone said ‘you standing again Rocke?’
‘He’d f****** well better had or his life will be Hell’ said another. ‘You take some stick but you’re not like the other ….(ones). You tell us what’s going on and if you don’t know you do your best to find out.’ ‘I’ll be signing your papers again’.

Sums it up I think.

I’m not a revolutionary, I’m a reformer.
One person’s ‘insurgent’ is another’s resistance fighter.

And thereby I think you have it, what it’s like to be a councillor. You’ll never get everybody loving you. In fact the majority of times you’ll be told someone’s not happy with you, and you’ll be rollocked in front of other members of the public, probably the antagonist’s friends.

I’ll be absolutely blunt.
Just like last time, I’ll probably be the only candidate at the Count who is completely neutral about whether they get elected or not. As far as I’m concerned the immediate job is done simply by standing and affording people the opportunity of choice. If  another job comes out of that, that of representing citizens and their interests then one applies oneself to that.

There is this time, however, another slant. Would I miss it if I wasn’t elected ?
And the answer there is that either option has its upside and downside.

Being re-elected would mean that I have given people something they want, I have broken the mould and there would most certainly be a great deal of satisfaction in that.
Failing to be re-elected would mean I – and quite a bit of the time Ruth - wouldn’t have to put up with what we have had to anymore, which would be a blessing.

I suppose in a bizarre sort of way I’m on a winner whatever happens…….
Now THAT is politics.

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