This is a transcript of a video in which LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson welcomes new councillors elected in 2023.
Hello, I'm James Jamieson. I'm Chairman of the Local Government Association. I'm also a Conservative Councillor in Central Bedfordshire. I became a councillor in June 2009 in the newly formed Central Bedfordshire Unitary Council. The nice thing about being a councillor is to actually make a difference for your community, representing your community and helping them get some of the things that are really important to them.
So one of the things I'm most proud about locally is that we managed to get a new Flitwick Leisure Centre, and we did that by coming up with a different model that meant it actually is self-funding and it generates its own funds in order to cover the cost of building. And there are many projects like that, and sometimes it may be something really simple.
It may be putting in a couple of dropped curbs that allows somebody who is wheelchair bound all of a sudden to get to the shops, which they couldn't do before. This week, I've at long last managed to get a road bollard reinstalled after about three months and I've had several residents come back to me saying thank you.
So sometimes it's big, sometimes it's small, but it's about making a difference for your community. So top three tips. When you first become a councillor, I think the first thing is don't expect it all to happen immediately and you can change the world. We are in a democratic process, and for better or worse, it does take time. But if you're patient and persistent, you can make really big differences.
The second thing is get help. As a new councillor, you don't know the ropes. You don't know how things work. It's really helpful if you have someone who's been a councillor for some time who can just help and advise you about who to speak to, how things happen, and how to get stuff done. And I would also say that applies to getting a relationship with officers.
We're in a relationship business, so it is about getting on with people. So find a friend or two, I think most important. And then the third one is actually, why are you councillor, what is it you want to achieve? And just focus on some key things that you want to do, rather than trying to do everything everywhere. So what involvement have I in the LGA?
Well, clearly as Chairman I have a huge involvement on a daily basis. But let me reflect on when I first became a councillor, and actually I didn't have much involvement and that was my loss rather than the LGA’s loss. I would definitely say trying to get involved with the LGA is very helpful. As Chairman, I have learned just what the LGA can do to support you, whether it's providing connectivity, linking you up with other people, whether it’s providing resources, whether it’s providing information, or whether it’s frankly just providing a base when you come to London.
Definitely get involved. Read LGA first, LG inform, which is a database, really helpful and try and get involved. You know, come to some of those seminars that we do, webinars, many of which are free, but also look at the courses. What are you interested in? Is it planning? Is it licensing? Is it adult social care? There are many courses that will help you build your skills in that area.
As I reflect, this is my fourth year as LGA Chairman and in fact my last year, I'll be stepping down in July. And some of the reflection of my time as Chairman is how much staff changes and the unexpected. I as Chairman didn't expect COVID. I didn't expect a war in Ukraine. I didn't expect a cost of living crisis.
I came in to work on adult social care, children's social care and planning and the green agenda. Now, those things are still very important and we must keep going with them. But events happen, as Macmillan said, ‘Politics. It's events, dear boy’. And I think that's what you're going to find. That's my experience as LGA Chair, but it's also my experience as a councillor.
Things will happen, the unexpected will happen. But you need to also carry on with the reason why you did it in the first place. Congratulations on becoming a councillor. It's something that I found really fulfilling and really felt that I've been able to achieve things for my residents. It's a great opportunity. Please make the best of it, enjoy it, but also deliver for your residents.