One of the great privileges about being a Councillor is the opportunity to meet and talk with such a wide range of people, from different communities, and who live in different neighbourhoods across the community.
This is two-way. Listen and talk; talk and listen. Staying in touch. It’s all about connecting and engaging with the public. I know that 'connecting' and 'engaging' are dreadfully over-used words, but they are accurate. It is important to connect, engage, converse and stay in touch, so that councillors understand different viewpoints and different issues of concern.
There are many ways for residents and their elected representatives to connect and engage. Of course I receive dozens of emails and phone calls each week, which is the routine way of communicating. But it’s the face-to-face meetings I value the most. Like the meeting of the residents’ group at a sheltered housing scheme, where they tell you the way it is!
The Ward Forums are always the highlight. We discuss topics of general concern and they are the key way for residents to keep in touch publicly with their Councillors. I always make a point of regularly attending local residents’ associations. Like ward forums they are another opportunity for residents to connect and engage with councillors publicly. It’s also important for me to connect and engage with other groups such as the police, the business community, and the health service. This adds to a rounded sense of the needs and issues facing the whole of our community.
But not everyone will pro-actively contact their councillor or MP, so we call on them. Over the course of a week I’ll knock on many doors; not just in the ward I represent but also elsewhere. This is superb opportunity for me to listen to what’s on people’s minds.
When the listening and talking is finished its time to do something about the issues raised. And that the real pleasure is seeing a problem resolved to the resident’s satisfaction.
There are some great perks, where I meet residents in altogether different settings. Over the last couple of weeks I have been twice to the University of West London in Ealing. Last week I attended the Pride in our People Awards at the university, sponsored by the Gazette. It was such an honour to meet those heroes, who make such a difference in the community.
The week before I attended the university’s Summer Showcase where the music, media, fashion and textiles students exhibited their creative material. What pleasure!
So get in touch, as councillors want to stay in touch.