I think the whole point of being a councillor locally is that you can take the little man’s views and put them across at a meeting like here in council, and make the voice heard which I think is important.
My name is Barbara McGarrity, I’m a councillor at Spring Vale and I’ve been a counsellor not very long, two and a half years. Really enjoyed it, it’s been an experience, something that really you wouldn’t get in ordinary everyday life and exposed to lots of interesting things.
What inspired you to become a councillor?
I was only about 12 and my dad had a car accident - he’s disabled, got a leg off from the war - and this car accident I don’t think should have happened, but anyway, I wrote to the Prime Minister at the time, I think it was Harold Wilson at the time, and a letter came to me and my dad said “Barbara there is a letter here from 10 Downing Street from the Prime Minister” and I said “Oh yeah Dad, I was expecting that letter”. He went “What?!”. So I said “I wanted there to be a flyover, otherwise you wouldn’t have had that accident because it’s a very bad junction. And he goes “My God”. So I think because Harold Wilson replied, maybe if somebody hadn’t replied maybe I would have been a bit let down. But I’d actually had my letter acknowledged - probably one of these secretaries just acknowledged it whatever. But nevertheless I had a reply and I kept that letter. So, I think for me that was a, you know, a Labour government listened to what I’ve got to say, suddenly the little man counts, I think that’s really important that the little man actually does count.
What work is involved day to day?
The day can be phone calls, emails, meetings, then the climate change things I’m reading up about, stuff like that that’s happening locally, it’s happening nationally, attending courses, full council meetings. Yeah it’s a busy old day, the week just flies by, definitely. But as I say it’s interesting and it’s something that Joe Bloggs doesn’t get involved with so you know we are there to represent Joe Bloggs. I think it’s a great opportunity, a great opportunity to help people make a difference to people‘s lives and improve people’s lives, be accessible, be seen as a person that they can speak to whether it’s to do with, you know, a lot of personal issues. Or, you know, I’ve been very fortunate to have the climate change remit, and that is just so interesting and will be there for very long time, unfortunately will be there, but it’s so interesting.
What advice would you give?
I think first of all, it’s a great opportunity, you’re not going to get this type of opportunity again. If you really want to do it, really go for it. Maybe shadowing one of the councillors just to see what they do. That would be a good thing to do because then you get more of an idea. ‘Cause I know when I first started myself, I really wasn’t 100 per cent sure and every councillor deals with things differently and does the job differently. There is no script to say you have to do this, you have to do that, it’s really up to yourself. Obviously if you go off the line, then somebody is going to pull you back. If there’s topics that they’re interested in, I think there is scope there to develop that, whether it’s as I say tooth cleaning or some other issues that might help with children, or maybe exercise, obesity. There’s all sorts of things that you can get involved in, or something that you’re interested in and follow up on. I think that’s a good thing because you’re not going to get the opportunity again. And I think the whole point of being a councillor locally is that you can take the little man’s views and put them across at a meeting like here in council, and make the voice heard which I think is important.