As I write this we are in the midst of the silly season – local council elections. So I thought I would give a personal viewpoint from one who is now also a candidate. It’s tough pounding the streets, writing articles, answering questions and chatting to people on a raft of subjects even though my team are in constant touch with residents.
Lord, have we lived through turbulent times - first Brexit, which lasted for what seemed a millennium, to the pandemic and all its crises from the lack of PPE, huge strain on our health and wellbeing services and much more.
For those who did not succumb to this awful virus there was and is still the trauma and regret of lost family and friends, lost livelihoods and now to crown it all the worst cost of living crisis. Where is the real help there? Talk about kicking us when we’re down!
And what do we now have to suffer – the asinine antics of a Government that simply doesn’t know how to behave, has no empathy with the general population and has made us all look like fools. And don’t get me started on the Ukrainian refugees debacle when people are literally dying to get here.
And that is what leads me to look at the local situation.
This country needs regulation – no one would dispute that – but it needs regulation that responds to a crisis before it becomes a drama. It needs to be reactive not proactive and flexible and humanitarian based. It must not demonise different groups in society but it must galvanise those who have, to want to do more for those who have not.
Locally it is your Council that carries through and implements Government legislation in a myriad of ways – some straightforward, some not. During the pandemic (and even now) Government makes statements before thinking of how to action them – or how councils have to action them.
I think most councils across the UK did a wonderful job in the pandemic – and could have done more if Government allowed – after all, who better knows local circumstances? A councillor who knows their patch and its people, or a mandarin sitting in Whitehall?
I know how hard officers at Southend Council worked throughout the pandemic – hour after hour, day after day, doing whatever they could to help those who were suffering through vulnerability, age, illness, isolation and family trauma.
And never let us forget the army of volunteers who came forward! Without them many things would have been far harder to achieve and all of them deserve recognition, as do all the other key workers who kept the country going.
I know the frustration Councils and the police suffered waiting for the Government to issue the guidance they needed to carry out that same Government’s wishes.
The pandemic has served to make all councillors and council staff aware of the level of help needed and the care that is required should we have to roll up our sleeves again. But it has also taken its toll on the same helpers and workforces and we need to be aware of that – working from home sounds great, but for some it is proving isolating and that will need to be addressed. We need to be with people.
I would like to think that all these crises have brought us closer together and more caring – and I am sure they have – but that shouldn’t stop because the pandemic (hopefully) is less aggressive. We cannot forget those we have lost and are still losing but we can use the experience, the camaraderie and the friendships to move forward, support our services, our volunteers and, indeed, our Council, into the future.
As I pound the streets this election tide, I meet many people who I know through social media (how that has changed our lives, for good or ill), through organisations I belong to or through my work on the Council and I relish the discussions, the chit chat and the laughs we have about all manner of subjects, some council related, some not.
By the time you read this I will either still be a councillor, or not – that is down to you; whatever happens I will continue to love my community and to work within it however I can. I hope there are plenty of others that will work with me and in the same way across the wonderful new City of Southend-on-Sea.