Transcript of Be A Councillor video interview with Cllr Wendy Thompson: Opposition Leader - Tettenhall Wightwick
Why did you become a councillor?
I became a councillor because I once bought a ticket for a cheese and wine event and it all really went from there. Also, I was interested in local issues in my local area. There was a lot of change going on with planning applications that were coming in, where we’d got some historical properties that were going to be demolished. And a friend said “would you like to come along to one of our meetings?”. And I found it interesting talking about the local area and those changes and how people were thinking about things, and they seemed to be thinking the same kind of things as I was.
What does a typical day as a councillor look like for you?
A typical day for a councillor is very varied, it is certainly for me. The most important things is when you get phone calls or emails from residents about dealing with those. Very often you have to speak to members of staff or send emails to them. It’s difficult sometimes to reply immediately. There are also visits that can take place as well. Surgeries which we hold at local libraries when we meet residents. There are important civic events that take place as well such as Remembrance Sunday. And we also sometimes have visits that come in from government ministers and also from the regional mayor as well.
What is the best thing about being a councillor?
Undoubtedly it’s when you can achieve something for residents - the residents are lovely. They send letters sometimes of appreciation, they sometimes send you messages and they're really pleased with what you've managed to do to make that improvement that they've been asking for. Sometimes there may be complaints as well and therefore you want to change things for them for the better so that they can feel that you've actually had a purpose, you've had a use and that it has improved that aspect of life for them.
What is the most challenging thing about being a councillor?
The most challenging thing is of course you're going to meet people who don't always appreciate how your own residents may be feeling, and can actually fight against it in the decision making that goes on within the council. And therefore you do have to stand your ground and you do have to make it clear these are the views of residents for the area, this is what is really needed by the council. And sometimes you're not exactly going to be flavour of the month, you're not always going to be the most popular. But it's important that you still convey those points across to the decision makers that are often senior members of staff and certainly people in a totally different political party who cannot appreciate just how your own residents may be feeling. But you do your best and you just say well I don't agree with you and that's all there is to it.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of standing for election?
I would say definitely have a sense of humour when you're standing for election and do keep that. Do realise that you're a member of a team, you're not on your own at all, there are always people there to help and support. You hopefully will see it the same as I do, that you are wanting to represent - and it is an honour to do it - the people of the area where you yourself want to be a councillor. You're not on your own, that's the most important thing. And also always try and keep a sense of humour which even though it might be tricky at times – at two o'clock in the morning when you're standing there seeing votes being counted.