On May 6th along with the referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan and election of Police & Crime Commissioner those of us in West Ward can vote for one of the two candidates to fill a vacancy on the town council. I asked each of them if they'd like to make a comment for our network and have pasted their replies below.
From Virginia Edwyn-Jones
Many thanks for your email. I have been thinking about your question and exactly what my priorities would be should I be elected.
Initially, my mind went blank because I have never been a town councillor before and so there is so much to learn! About how it works, what the fundamentals are, how much scope there is for ideas/ progress/ innovation within the framework and precept. With so much to take on board, I don’t have too many clear cut ideas about what I want to achieve; I think that will become clear as I learn about what the council already has in hand and what goals it has already set itself.
I would, firstly, be committed to getting on with the other Councillors and communicating as clearly, calmly and productively as possible! I will arrive with those subjects that are already close to my heart, such as the economic health of our town, protecting our heritage and the beauty of our town, together with enhancing those parts of Shaftesbury that are not in a conservation area. I’m very interested to find out what the Green Spaces group are up to, where all the new trees have been planted, what’s been planted and what else is planned. And of course, current and future developments – doing our utmost to hold developers to account, to ensure developers stick to the planning conditions of the development and that they deliver what they promise. None of which is within the gift of a town council of course, but we must exert as much pressure as we can on Dorset Council without alienating them.
And as I write this, I am reminded that one of the reasons I don’t know is that it is not always clear what the town council has in hand and I have frequently commented to various councillors before that communicating their actions and what they are doing to fellow Shastonians is very important, so that’s something I would like to look at. Of course, that we know as much as we do is largely down to the brilliance of This Is Alfred, but I think the Council does more than people give it credit for and this should be known and understood more widely.
I do have a few big ideas but I don’t think it would be prudent at this moment to discuss them – I would hate to sound presumptuous or arrogant in any way. There is so much to understand first, one topic of which of course is climate change and what our Council’s views and commitments to it are; whilst Dorset Council has acknowledged a Climate Emergency, how does that filter down to individual Councils? Does it filter down at all and if not, what actions could our Council take to contribute to reducing our waste and emissions? Whatever the answer to that is, it is crystal clear that such considerations must be at the very forefront of how our town evolves.
I think that’s it for now. I hope that sounds OK, thanks for asking me!
From Mike Madgwick
Thank you for the contact regarding the West Ward elections.
I would not necessarily describe my list as priorities, as in an elected body of 12 persons, one must constantly convince the majority on any particular position for that public body to pursue – thus the first thing is to enhance the level of reasoned and well consulted dialogue to focus on the issues, not personalities, to do that which delivers a sustainable set of results for future generations.
I see a role on council and the role of council to do two things – direct the functions which are 100% within its gift to enhance our environmental activities/impact, and, on those items where the council is a consultee (be it designated statutory or courtesy), it become a valued voice of reason that is increasingly sought out as it speaks with a wisdom others respect as an advocate for the many changes we humans need to make to rebalance our relationship with the planet that sustains us – and all other life.
Taking the items 100% within the control of council – this breaks down into assets the council owns and manages such as; open spaces, buildings and capabilities (such as say grounds team equipment). Much good work has occurred and we have much to be proud of, yet we cannot sit back, we can always do a bit more, be this extending where we can wildlife verges, diversified ecological spaces on council land, tree planting as a legacy, work on the common land, through to how the council uses hydrocarbon powered equipment, through to such things as buying ethically from power suppliers (i.e. do we currently use a renewable resources electricity supplier).
On just fuel usage to hover over this in some detail; if I take the electricity that is stated in the council’s accounts to be from Southern Electric. The web-site shows that this utility supplier has only 51.9% of renewables (48.1% is natural gas):
Ecotricity (I have no vested interest I hasten to add other than a desire to see us explore and change that which we can to benefit all) is billed as a 100% renewable electricity supplier....thus to show the council’s meaning – why not wake-up tomorrow morning and change suppliers? The point of progress does not have to be to Ecotricity – some more research is needed for reasoned decisions, yet we can send a message about how commitment turns into positive change.
To push this point: Electricity supplier is something we can all change almost at the drop of a hat and it has meaning in delivering a positive change in consumption habits.
Then turning to fuel – we use fuelGenie today - this is a fuel card savings scheme – yet does this drive to usage of reduced non-renewable hydrocarbons – today I do not know that detailed answer but I do know where to start asking questions and how to drive a solution as I illustrate with electricity supplier. There are increasingly hydrocarbon fuels with reduced refined oil content – can we migrate to these as a stepping stone away from dependency(?)
Thus these are just two items that change rhetoric into positive outcomes on the theme of that which is 100% of one’s control as a public body. We can progressively become that exemplar of how a small parish makes quality positive choices. The many other items need the same level of debate and analysis along with the key ingredient of involving our public in each and every step of the journey.
Involvement of the public then educates the second theme, that of being an influencer of standing – the list here is pretty long, so I’ll just limit myself to a few headlines...which I trust encapsulate the direction of travel I’d like to see us collectively take as society.
A parish council being the lowest level of civil government, yet I would hope the most intimate with the needs of its community – today, tomorrow and those aspects that do not have a vote but rely upon us to discharge our long-term duty of care for environmental matters. So a headings list that each could be developed into major discussion point (from the major to the more immediately tangible) where the council can have a position that constructively challenges that which just gets gulped down in some quarters as what we must accept, as we are told that is all that is on offer:
Housing development driven by true local need – knock these thoroughly discredited housing number algorithms on the head once and for all
Sustainable housing standards that really have bite
Development with associated sustainable infrastructure
Connectivity – from making high speed broadband real for the many, through to transport that progressively lessens the need for non-renewable hydrocarbons, thus to
Electric charge points (having enough of them to make a difference) so make planning rules a force for better change
Vehicle sharing schemes in rural areas
Best use of brown field and existing sites
Sharing other local council resources to make sustainable assets more affordable
Presumption against green field to re-use
Public access to land for exercise and recreation and mental wellbeing
Down to simple things like more allotment spaces to reduce waiting lists (which the council can take into its 100% capable of influencing list)
Some items are said by certain politicians to be above our pay grade – I disagree – the debates and head of steam for change has to start somewhere and who better than the mass of the population who are increasingly wanting a different direction of travel to that which some parts of the political (and lobbying) establishment wish to guide us along.
Frankly we have an eye watering array of choices on the ‘can constructively influence list’ and each needs attention – it will be for the voters to also show their active support in telling all layers of government that we cannot keep doing the ‘same old’, along with what they want as our priorities, these must be our priorities and ultimately I have always been of the view that when engaged, voters have an enviable knack of applying common sense and vision where some leaders become entangled in aspiring to mediocrity and failing in that lacklustre ambition.
I trust this helps with illustrated enthusiasm (and practical example) as to why this is more than just a campaigning item – the issues are now no longer debates, they are in the must grasp now category.