My first week as a Councillor

South Leeds elected three new Councillors in the local elections on 3 May 2018. We asked them to tell us what the experience was like, here Paul Wray, Councillor for Hunslet & Riverside Ward.

I’d like to thank everyone who voted in the election – regardless of who for – as every vote keeps our democracy healthy. I’m here to serve all of our communities and I look forward to working with everyone who wants better for our bit of South Leeds.
Here is my light-hearted take on my first week and a bit as a Councillor.

The Result
That’s it. All the pressure and the stress is gone. The result is announced. The speech is over. The next words uttered to you are “Congratulations Cllr, please come this way” and you are asked to sign the declaration of acceptance of office. It is an odd experience. Everyone then insists on calling you Cllr for no reason what so ever for a few hours to help it sink in.

Friday – Monday
The first day is a bit mad. People congratulate you (just before they give you some casework to do), others lament you won and someone else didn’t (and then give you more work) and you somehow find time to sleep (and dream about all the work you’ve just been given).

By midday Friday you get your first “Van Delivery” and now have a mound of council paperwork to read. It’s been seven hours since the result.

The first big choice is how to spend the weekend – do you relax and recharge or go back to work?

I went back to work – attending some public events, picking up more casework (this is a theme) and started to clear the work I’d collected over the election, restarted my area walks, and began to arrange meetings with local community leaders.

This was the first day at Civic Hall as someone who works there. You’re given a tour of the building – and you realise how much of it there is. You meet the staff who’ll help you carry out your role as a Cllr, and you try absorbing all the information being given to you. You’re shown your pigeonhole. I already found I had letters after four days – three of them weren’t even working days!

Wednesday – Friday
Meetings, and more meetings. My phone keeps pinging with emails, social media posts (most likely more casework). My once half-empty diary is full of appointments. It is very much sleep, eat, meetings, repeat.

Saturday and Sunday
You’re back in the community attending events and going to people’s homes to collect more casework. Sunday night comes, the emails, calls and social media posts stop. There is a little respite for a few hours and then “ping”, it might be 10 pm but someone needs your advice.

Light-heartedness aside, the sheer range of responsibilities and duties is vast. From dealing with complex anti-social behaviour complaints, land disputes, dog fouling, planning questions and more. There is no gentle start. As one constituent put it best “there is no rest for the elected!”

It is an honour to serve, but not one for the faint-hearted.

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