Transcript of video interview Cllr Sohail Khan, Tettenhall Regis Ward, City of Wolverhampton Council
So, my name’s Councillor Sohail Khan and I’m a city councillor, elected in Tettenhall Regis ward in Wolverhampton.
A friend of mine was a Councillor at the time, well somebody I knew, and I was in-between jobs at the time, and he wanted some help with campaigning, so I sort of got dragged along to help with campaigning. I’ve had an interest in politics, I’ve always voted, and I’ve always kept a keen eye for the results and stuff, but I’ve never ever actually been actively involved, so I helped him with campaigning.
At that time when he was standing for the locals, there were general elections as well, so there was an MP at the time, his name was Paul Upal, so I sort of just got involved within the campaign and I sort of got a feel for it so it sort of snowballed from there really.
What work is involved day to day?
So, Councillors – one of the responsibilities is the running of the city, and the decision-making of everybody, so that's understanding that. Secondly, where you’re elected, in whatever ward it is, your residents - so they might have issues, so you have to be available for them - so whether it's the bin collection, overgrown trees, hedges, schooling issue with their children, pot holes, fly-tipping, whatever it is you have to be available to them. So, they'll contact you with whatever issues they have.
Being an elected councillor is a 365 day a year job. I don't think you can have a day off, because you're elected, you’re not an employee, you're an elected representative so you should be available to your residents.
One of the core responsibilities of a Councillor is corporate governance. So, be prepared for the responsibility, be prepared for the work, and you know, as long as you can understand the role and what it involves and what needs to be done, then you'll be absolutely fine. It’s something that I believe you have to be passionate about, you can't just you can't become a Councillor because it's a job, it's not a job - it's more of a lifestyle than a job.
What skills do you need to become a Councillor?
Good people skills, I mean, communication, and I think a bit of empathy, you need that as well.
A lot of residents that will come to you, they have a lot of complex needs, and often when they’ve come to you, sometimes they’ve exhausted a lot of different channels. So I’ve had cases when people have come to me, and to be fair with you, I've known from the offset that I can't really do anything to help them - it's out of my remit - but you’ve got to be able to listen, understand, be sympathetic, and even if you can't help them, at least be able to give them advice, and point them in the right direction. So people skills 100 per cent have to, you know, have to come into it.
I think you need to be strong willed as well, because often than not, there’s tough decisions that need to be made, so you’ve got to have a bit of conviction about you, and you know, be able to make them. So I think all round, you know, people skills, good communication skills, empathy, and a bit of steel as well, you definitely need that.
What advice would you give?
So, I would advise them to maybe get in contact with their local councillor, regardless of what their sort of political allegiances are. Shadow somebody, see what it involves, and see if that's what you want.
If you want to make a difference to people, you want to make a difference to people's lives, then it's 100 per cent something you should be involved in. There is a political side to it as well, but more than the political side it's the humanity side as well. That's the most important part of being a Councillor and often people forget that that's what it's about. But there’s a lot of different elements in it, but if you’re interested do not be put off, it's great, you know, it’s a responsible job, it's a great job. You’re making a difference in people's lives within your ward, within the city, and you know, what could be better!