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Could you be a Wiltshire councillor?

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WOULD you like to be one of the next Wiltshire councillors for Melksham?

Local elections are coming up in May – for town, parish and unitary roles – and residents are being encouraged to think about whether they would like to represent their community.

In an effort to encourage more people to put themselves forward as candidates for election, Melksham News is asking local councillors to share their experiences of what it is like to work for the community and be part of a local council.

In previous issues we spoke to Melksham’s town and parish councillors, and for this fortnight’s issue, the spotlight falls on Melksham’s Wiltshire councillors, who represent the town at county level.

And unlike the town and parish councillor roles, which are voluntary and unpaid, Wiltshire councillors receive an allowance of at least £13,833 per year.

Speaking to Melksham News, Melksham’s Wiltshire councillors have shared their thoughts on the role; giving an insight into the work that they do; and what it means to them to represent their community.

Cllr Jon Hubbard said, “Being a Wiltshire councillor is probably the best job I have had. As a councillor I can help shape much of what happens in our community, although I don’t have as much power as some people believe! 

“During my 12 years on the council I have served in several roles including chair of Melksham Area Board, chair of environment select committee and chair of children’s select committee.  

“Additionally, I served as the vice-chair of the county council’s network and was a co-author of the LGA Bright Futures document on children’s services. I also chair the scrutiny panel for Adoption West. 

“Most of our work takes place in these committees where we dig into the detail of the administration’s proposals and hold them to account. A good example of this would be when I exercised my right to “call in” the decision the council made to close and sell our outdoor education centres. 

“The work undertaken behind the headlines forced the council to rethink and means we still have viable outdoor education centres in Wiltshire.

“Keeping on top of casework is critical and this requires much of my time – but it is the most important and rewarding part of my job.”

Cllr Phil Alford said, “As a Wiltshire councillor we scrutinise and debate the policies that are put forward by the cabinet and this is most effectively done by working on committees and feeding into the decision making process. 

“We also work with individual residents and groups to help them in their dealings with Wiltshire Council services. 

“Less formally and where the real skill comes in is in understanding how the systems work, working with officers, the parishes, other councillors, MPs and other decision makers to influence decisions and achieve improvements to the community as a whole. All of this has to be achieved against a back drop of complex legal processes, conflicting interests, budget constraints and the needs of other communities across the county whist maintaining fairness for all parties involved.

“In term of how it impacts my life it takes up a lot of time in meetings, reading reports, attending briefings and casework but it has been hugely satisfying.  

“I have had a real and positive effect on the lives of the people in my community through the projects I have developed or supported, the help I have given and the influence I have had at a county wide level. With four children and a full time job it has not been easy fitting it all in but I am very lucky to have supportive family.”

Cllr Jonathon Seed said, “I have been a Wiltshire councillor for a rural part of the Melksham area for the past twelve years. My role involves looking after the issues of my residents and their villages.  

“I attend seven evening parish councils monthly as well as Melksham Area Board and Wiltshire Council meetings.  I am vice chairman of western area planning committee and have been an active member of that committee for twelve years.  

“I have chaired the Melksham Area Board for eight of the past twelve years. I am also a member of my own village parish council.  

“I spend a great deal of time both dealing with village issues and residents’ casework.  My residents tell me that they feel that it is important to have a councillor who knows his way around the council and can get things done for them. It helps in all of this to be of the same political party as the administration of the council.

“The role of the Wiltshire councillor is important in order to govern and hold the council and its executive to account. There is also a vital role in taking up cases where residents or their villages need someone to fight their corner.”

Cllr Nick Holder said, “I was elected to be the Wiltshire councillor for Melksham Without South in a by-election in October 2019. The first few weeks were quite daunting as I had to complete a very detailed induction into the role, meeting officers and fellow councillors. The induction was well planned and was very comprehensive even though it was just for me. 

“Any new councillors elected this May will be part of a large cohort, so their induction will be done in a group. I was then appointed to two of the select committees which scrutinise the work of the council. 

“The important work of attending full council meetings and committee meetings is exciting and rewarding, for me the most satisfying part of being a Wiltshire councillor is the “case work”. This is the part of the role which really helps me make a difference to the lives of the residents of my division either directly or through working with the parish council. 

“I have been involved in assisting with planning matters; issues with housing associations and issues with the highways department to name just a few.

“Finally, there is the work as part of the Melksham Area Board. This role there allows me to have a positive impact on the wider Melksham community and bring forward councillor sponsored initiatives like the one I recently brought forward for the Melksham young carers.”

Cllr Pat Aves said, “I have already been a Wiltshire councillor for eight years (for Melksham North), and a town councillor for almost ten years.  

“On the town council I work and support projects that make life better for the residents of Melksham, such as the renovations in King George V park, the Spiritualist Garden, and the Shurnhold Fields country park. 

“I volunteer with Town Tidy and the Bloom Team, and support voluntary groups, particularly those concerned with the welfare and social inclusion of women, aiding with applications for grants, speaking up for them, making sure that they get the help they need to help others.

“I am part of the Steering Group of the Neighbourhood Plan, ensuring that the views of the people of Melksham regarding housing, schools, health and leisure, places to work and the environment are heard.

“At County Hall I am particularly involved with scrutiny of the care of vulnerable children and adults, and with issues relating to the improvement of the environment, and climate change.  

“And I am always there at the end of the phone, to help and advise, and lend an ear when you need it. I work hard for Melksham.”

For more information about becoming a Wiltshire councillor and how to nominate yourself as a candidate in the upcoming elections, visit the Wiltshire Council website:  www.wiltshire.gov.uk/elections-becoming-a-councillor

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