Derby City Council

Jonathan Smale, City Councillor – reflections on his 1st year in office

I interviewed you just over a year ago when you were campaigning to be elected as Conservative Councillor for the Chaddesden ward.  I guess it feels like a long time ago….do you have any general reflections on your original ambitions and how it turned out?

I think it’s fair to say I was very naïve when I did the previous interview . I had great ambitions to become a Councillor, and I was glad that I got elected last year and it was a push in the deep end. I’m unique in that I’m an opposition Councillor in a Labour Ward and we do actually work quite well together.

It’s been an amazing year….a lot going on, like the Teaching Assistant dispute. I have never seen such an angry Council meeting as the one on the 1st March this year and a leader who is so unpopular with the public.

What are the achievements you are most proud of from your 1st year?

I’ve started to do a lot of work with Youth Services.  Youth engagement was something that I picked up quite quickly and  we need to think creatively on how to improve this with funding cuts. We do have a local group in Chaddesden called “Sporting communities” who provide sporting events with Youth services….- Eddy Fisher. They do a great job. They get about 30 young people, from 9- 16, and they do various events, and I managed to get them £1000 from 2 businesses – £500 from SENAD group, who specialise in educational needs for young children, and £500 from Pattonair who supply aerospace components to Rolls-Royce.

We are in the process of creating a constitutionalised committee for the Chaddesden and Derwent Youth Initiative. It requires a lot of cross-party work. We’ve made it both wards as, for the people in the area, it’s all Chaddesden. Also I think it’s good that wards should link together on different projects. When the set-up is complete, we can appoint a committee and then apply for funding from many different sources. We’re trying to make ourselves self-sufficient.

I’ve also had a good year with Friends of Chaddesden Park. I got in touch with them just after I was elected and wanted to connect with as many people as possible. I phoned up the Chair, Barbara Taylor, and introduced myself, and got involved in the “Chaddesden Big One” and from that have made many more contacts.

We had a real problem with litter on Wood Road, by the One-Stop supermarket. With the help from the Chaddesden partnership and other Councillors…we managed to get things done. It was one of the first complaints I received from residents which I wanted to fix.  There was also the problem of over-bearing trees which turned out to be more complicated than you might think –  we had someone who owns the land, and someone who’s leased the building, and then it was a case of who was responsible for what? It was an absolute nightmare – it took us about 2-3 months to resolve. I’m pleased with the outcome, and it has made a massive difference.

I have been involved in many day to day issues which crop up with residents which I’ve helped them with – I really enjoy this part of the work.

I spoke in my first interview about being committed to communicating with the ward residents by any means possible, so apart from meeting people, phone calls, visiting people, I have text dialogues with people, facebook, letters….I try and keep all options open.. in whatever way suits the resident.

I was appointed on the Audit and Accounts scrutiny committee in my first year, as well as the Inspiring Children committee – these are massive issues and vastly different. The Audit committee, by its nature is much more politically charged, whereas the Inspiring Children is more focussed on what’s best for the children, and politics rarely comes into it.

The Council Officers are great and were really helpful in explaining any issues that I needed support on – there is so much to learn and understand. It’s very much down to how much you want to get involved in things….

Although I will move away from these committees from May 2017, I have become vice Chair of the Communities committee from May 2017,  which I am very much looking forward to. This will help me get more involved in the areas which most interest me on the environment, litter etc.   I’ll also be on the Licensing committee.

Any disappointments?

When I spoke before my election, I mentioned about Match Day parking. It’s not going to be solved as quickly as I’d hoped. It all stems from poor planning from the time that Pride Park was built in the 90s. I’m disappointed that the “Wyvern triangle” was not used for parking or ‘Park and Ride’ which would have alleviated pressure in Chaddesden.

We’ve looked at a number of options, like charging, but that will most likely just move the problem somewhere else; then you have problems with parking permits for residents.  There is a lot of inconsiderate parking on corners so junction protection will be the most practical development in the short term which will alleviate some of the traffic problems. The Police have been very helpful in exploring this subject.

We have the Chaddesden partnership Meeting which meets once per month but it’s by invite only. It used to be the Neighbourhood Board which had residents on it. I preferred this system as it kept it more transparent and it keeps you a bit honest. This was Cllr Boulton’s decision as Chair of the local meeting structure. I did raise this with her as to why we couldn’t have a normal Neighbourhood Board and her words were “Why make twice the workload when you already have a surgery?”

…and what about the party politics in chamber?

When I’m in Chaddesden I just see myself like an independent Councillor getting on with the job, When you walk into the Council House I become more political and you realise that you’re more of a Conservative Councillor.

I go to all of the Cabinet meetings, albeit not mandatory but it’s a good way of seeing what’s going on before it gets to Full Council. The most frustrating thing though is that the opposition has little right to speak at the meeting….and the Labour Group take the opportunity to score as many points as possible. It is a different world!

 

 

With the next Council elections taking place in May 2018, including that of the Leader, Ranjit Banwait….it’ll be interesting to hear Jonathan’s reflections in 12 month’s time. It won’t be a boring year!

Categories: Derby City Council

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