"My Years As A Labour Councillor" - Janet Riddington

We are still looking for council candidates for local election which will take place in May 2020. From my 16 years of council experience, I have penned a short piece below, to give you an idea of the work and rewards involved. I found being a Councillor a thoroughly rewarding experience and would strongly encourage you to consider standing.

To find out more contact our secretary at info@wycombelabour.co.uk

I first became a Labour Councillor in 1982. The campaign to get elected, supported and coordinated by Western Branch stalwarts such as Norman Wardman, I found quite exhilarating.

At the time I had two children aged 7 and 9. Becoming and understanding the role of a Councillor was a steep learning curve for me but I learned a lot and was ably supported by the group leader Trevor Fowler and other Labour Councillors. At that time there were 3 women Councillors in our group of 6. Meetings at Wycombe District Council took place in the evening. The system then was different from today and Councillors were placed on various committees with a voting rights on each. Full Council occurred about every 6 weeks

Councillors could claim for attendance and travel expenses. Later that changed and an annual financial amount was paid. At the current time an annual allowance is paid to Councillors on Bucks County Council and I assume that will be the situation in the new Unitary Authority.

Notwithstanding that the Labour Group was a small minority on the Council at the time, through careful preparation and being on top of our brief, we were able to influence Council policy and strategy. Additionally, I got great satisfaction in helping local constituents to get assistance with their problems. These were predominantly issues with housing, whether for repairs, rehousing or being accepted onto the housing list. Preventing people becoming homeless was also important as giving people the information they needed could prevent eviction taking place. Knowing who to put them in contact with and following up with officers on their behalf also gave huge personal satisfaction. Real influence could be had on day to day issues by working closely with fellow Councillors and gaining the respect of Council officers.

There were also issues with environmental services as the ward I represented, Booker Castlefield, was a ward with huge areas of deprivation, as it is now. Dumped rubbish was a problem. Anti-social behaviour was also common. I was able to achieve various improvements to the area including lighting, additional safety handrails on slopes and safety barriers outside elderly persons residences.

In all I served 16 years successfully standing in 4 elections. In the last 4 years we were in an alliance with the Lib Dems and we achieved many things to the benefit of residents of the whole District I was elected Vice Chair of the Council when Betty Barratt was Chair. When I stood down at the end of that period another woman stood for Labour and was successful in being elected.

I envisage that being in at the formation of the new Buckinghamshire Council, hopefully as part of a significant and skilled Labour Group will present a major opportunity to help residents of High Wycombe and further afield. Additionally, the new Council will take on responsibility for major areas of policy, including education, children’s services and social services, a much broader portfolio than the District Council I experienced.

Though at first apprehensive about what I had taken on in 1982, I did not regret it for a moment and achieved a great deal of personal satisfaction and knowledge by getting involved.

- Janet

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