Turning pages and making sense of it all

Turning pages and making sense of it all

Councillor Carl Quartermain

After much consideration and procrastinating, I’ve decided to do something I have been meaning to do for a few years now and that is to share my ins and outs of being a councillor in Redcar & Cleveland. My worry is I haven’t the time, so I apologise in advance if it doesn’t hold daily or conclusive entries, however I’ve come to the realisation that I spend most of my time writing in any case, and much of what I write is public and crosses back and forth internally and externally, so here’s me giving it a try. Positive feedback is most welcome of course!

The main thing I have learnt as a councillor is to be organised, prepared, responsive, active and to stay informed. It is easy to lose track or miss opportunities, become distracted and while many things will move slowly, there are a lot of them (if you are truly engaged) and it all just keeps coming. There are highs and lows, times you want to get off, times you have to say no or concede on an issue and other times where you see the fruits of your labour flourish.

Being a lead councillor is not so much a rollercoaster but the entire theme park where the rides operate very slowly but there are hundreds and hundreds of them to engage with. There are many ups and downs, times when you go round and round and round, moments where you feel you’ve achieved your goal and many other times you are left questioning your choices. It is a rare and unique, privileged position to be trusted with and to have an opportunity to make a marked difference. I fully embrace what I do as a representative not only of the people who elected me and the Labour Group who selected me, but to all residents, groups, businesses and visitors who rely on me to get things done. My priority is to my ward, Coatham, my responsibility is to my party but my whole is as an ambassador and advert for all that is Redcar & Cleveland.

My days are often filled up with emails, phone calls, social media messaging and posts, meetings and interactions, consultations, media and many many complaints, issues and requests to chase up. As a Labour councillor and practicing democrat, all of this is balanced with party politics, organising and communicating internally within the party, reporting back to members, being up-to-date on current affairs on all scales and being ready to comment and speak officially and unofficially at any given moment on any subject. It can be time consuming, easy to miss things, certainly affects family, social and work life balance and is ultimately life changing.

I have a number of hopes for this blog and from engaging in this way in that it provides a better understanding of what councillors get up to. A platform where I can highlight for the reader, issues that I’m involved in directly or indirectly in a more in depth way, than would be of general interest on social media. I hope also that if it is of interest, whether specifically in regard to our area or generally about local government and politics, readers feel better informed and are able to interact more. I hope too that students are able to use this blog as a resource to support their studies and observations. Primarily though, I hope to provide better communication for local residents specifically Coatham residents, who have logged an issue with me that may be of wider public interest where progress can be followed. I welcome residents to contact me on the items raised or over new issues they have.

Ultimately, I hope to give an honest account of myself and provide a light touch of what it’s like to be an elected member and the impact it has on the area, residents and me personally. In this way, I hope it can give an insight to anyone thinking of standing as a councillor, to help you (and me) understand the limitations, to dispel any myths and conspiracy theories and hopefully it inspires more people to put themselves forward, to want to lead in this and their areas. The role is very rewarding but it doesn’t come without challenges and pressure.

So, after five years I have learnt not to take myself or my health for granted; That I am human and not super after all and that rest, family time and managing your schedule is extremely important to your effectiveness; Not to overstretch, although I still find it hard to turn down offers and invitations to lead; To rely on myself but still trust and have faith in others; To keep records and follow up on all issues I bring to the table, because it is only yourself who is the driving force to see them through; Oh and do not give up ownership over a good idea or it will be taken from you for someone else to champion or take credit!

Being a councillor for a political group isn’t all about the political back and forth either, it is very much all about the community, the people, the personalities, the groups, the businesses, the hardships, the triumphs, the conversations, the perpetual problems and those local everyday issues at grassroots level that are so important to an individual or that can have a profound effect on a neighbourhood or the entire local area. It can be challenging and difficult but is always absorbing and when you achieve it is extremely rewarding. It can leave you anywhere from frustrated to being hugely thankful, enraged or delighted, sad or elated, gobsmacked or humbled, destroyed or triumphant, completely baffled or completely satisfied. One thing it never is though, is dull. It is a unique experience – an absolute honour – and one I will try and share with you from today.

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