Thanks to all who made it to our regional events, last Friday's annual conference and this weekend's Next Generation training.
I wrote last week that despite our thorough and determined efforts, the Autumn Budget has failed to address our financial shortfall. It got me thinking about just how much our councillors achieve despite limited resources. Our Independent Group members are well connected to our communities and bring vibrant and exciting ideas. I am sharing a few of the examples mentioned to me just this week, which I hope you agree are interesting and could be worth taking up.
Improved transport links
Working with a developer, Cllr Gillian Corr has made the whole of a housing estate travel safe, with all roads gritted, currently much-needed in two inches of snow!
Cllr Mike Haines and I have successfully spearheaded campaigns for getting bypasses for Kingskerswell and Leadenham.
Another good idea is working on deregulating bus services to enable council support and making sure that developers make a contribution to new stops and bus routes, together with development.
In planning, our members consistently stand up for local residents, whilst keeping within the planning rules. This week Cllr Mike Bush overturned a planning decision, rallying the committee to protect a 100-year-old farmhouse. Part of his success is undoubtedly in the credibility he has built up in creating a community pub with a first time buyer and downsizing accommodation.
A number of colleagues and I have worked on the detail throughout the construction and implementation of Local Plans. Cllr Helen Powell is leading the Neighbourhood Plan for her town, Bourne.
Using less of the earth's resources
Cllr Michael Lilley is working hard to support the Isle of Wight to be registered as a dark skies location, evidencing low emissions, healthier sleep and the reduction of anxiety and depression.
Also on the Isle of Wight, Cllr Ian Stephen has set up a Residents Forum, holding events round the Island to discuss ideas and plan for the future.
Cllr Elyn Stephens, a Plaid Cymru member, has set about putting a motion forward to make free sanitary materials available in schools.
Cllr Dr Helen Carr in Brent has initiated a motion to reaffirm a strong ethical stance against the use of torture, which is still far from eradicated.
Cllr David Green has been fighting for low rents and now has a "living rent" policy in Brighton and Hove.
On behalf of the group, I am supporting the Make Votes Matter Campaign, aiming for a more inclusive system of democracy.
Amazingly, our cross party campaign to keep the Children's Heart Hospital open was this week announced as successful.
Cllr Catherine Mills is working on making her area a "blue zone" and Cllr Gillian Ford has been setting up Dementia Friendly authority areas, working with local businesses.
All councillors in Stockport are undergoing CPR training, creating a network across the whole area.
Cllr Loic Rich, director of a Community Interest Company, is launching plans for the Truro Loops, a series of paths planned to connect the city with the countryside. "It was fantastic in that everybody turned out to help with the exhibition and the stall outside during the reindeer parade," he said. "Yes, real reindeers.
Organising events and facilities
Cllrs Lisa Duffy and Peter Reeve have been running their local library, public toilets and organising Christmas events including door to door collections for funding.
Cllr Catherine Braun has just completed the application for a play area in Wotton and a "Greenway", now a new charity, creating a traffic-free route linking schools and employment.
In my village, Cllr Conway and I have spearheaded support for Mrs Smith's Cottage Museum, five new village halls, business networks and next, a community garden.
Bringing partners together
One resident with 13 dogs and a horse had a neighbour conflict put at the door of their councillor under the anti-social behaviour legislation. Cllr Bush brought in the RSPCA, social services and police. Now the animals are sorted, the fence replaced and the neighbours' differences resolved.
Indeed it is our members who can open doors and bring people together to build better communities.
And, friend of the Independent Group, Prof Colin Copus, has just published his extensive report on the Voice of the Councillor and it makes a good read. The Group office can put you in touch with him if you'd like a copy.