Case work is, as previously stated, a key role for local councillors.
Often this is a matter of helping people through the system; frequently it’s about unblocking delays to getting action or sorting an issue out.
Reviewing the first half year of my time as a councillor, I discovered just how many residents I’d been contacted by. The caseload is varied and does follow patterns, such as the concerns over residents’ parking (RPS) prior to the introduction of the new scheme in Redland. Topics included the loss of the bus service 20, and its replacement with a council-supported service 520; pavement parking; noise complaints; road resurfacing; foxes; council tax problems; school places; and damage to, or removal of, trees.
The majority of RPS issues were satisfied once the scheme started and people got used to the scheme operation, apart from some initial delays with permits which had to be chased.
The majority of streets appear to have benefitted from the removal of commuter parking (the main purpose of the scheme), although now these impacts are affecting many residents in surrounding streets. This has meant a switch to clarifying how the scheme will be reviewed, and clarifying the options for streets who have not had a scheme proposed. I pressed for this to be discussed at the December 2014 Redland Forum and thanks to getting this on the agenda we were able to make sure residents could question the officer in detail on how the six month review would be carried out. Ensuring feedback gets listened too and local ideas are used to shape local schemes has always been a goal of mine.
I’ve also made an effort to ensure general messages get shared via local publications, and columns in the widely-read Bishopston Matters and Bishopston Voice are a good way to get information out to many more people. Responses to these popular local magazines shows they are well read.
We’re now reviewing how well local ward fora work in the neighbourhood. To me these should be an important, but not the only, public way to raise concerns and hear about what’s happening. I know they are not that well attended and wish we could develop more varied ways for people to engage locally with the council. That said, I get plenty of calls and emails so most people do also know how to get in touch. It can take a while to chase and get results – and our powers as councillors is not that enormous, as it happens – but the reward has been when I get thanked for looking into things, acting as advocate for residents, and getting issues remedied. Activity in City Hall may be important, but I certainly try to remember that the day to day remit of elected councillors is to represent everyone in the ward.