We wanted to find out the opinions of local councillors on the use of the Internet and social media in their roles –
1. How long have you been a local councillor ?
It will be seven years next year.
2. Have you always wanted to be a councillor ?
If not what was your background before local politics ?
I never had a burning desire to become a Councillor, although it does run in the family. My Auntie was the first woman to become Chairman of the old Ramsbottom & District Council before local government re-organisation (she was of a different political persuasion though as are most of my family!) I had started becoming interested in politics when I was at school as a teenager and I joined the Conservative Party during my twenties and helped out locally during election campaigns delivering leaflets etc. Over a period of time I became active with local organisations such as Edenfield Village Residents’ Association, Central Edenfield Community Action Group, Edenfield and District Community Association and the Police and Communities Together Panel. When one of the local Conservative Councillors became ill and had to step down I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a Councillor and although I was hesitant due to having a busy full time job and a family with two young children it seemed like the natural thing to do, the next step to take to help resolve some of the issues in the local community which were raised at residents meetings etc. It’s funny really because from starting as a Ward Councillor I quickly caught the bug and became a Member of the Council Cabinet Committee when the Conservatives controlled the Council, then became Deputy Leader and now Leader of the Conservative Councillors on Rossendale Council. I’m also a County Councillor which allows me to deal quickly and effectively with many concerns such as Highways matters etc (a huge proportion of constituent enquiries) which are the responsibility of the County Council. I also still work full time and my children are still quite young so life is a juggling act most of the time, but it can be very rewarding and very worthwhile.
3. How do you see social media playing a part in your role as a councillor in Rossendale and Darwen ?
I have to confess to being a bit of a luddite when it comes to social media, I’m not on Facebook and I don’t twitter etc. I always say that I’m too busy doing to be typing about it. I know some people live their lives through social media and I’m sure it could play an important role and who knows maybe someday I may join in but for now I much prefer meeting people face to face and speaking on the telephone. E-mail is wonderful though and has revolutionised the way a Councillor deals with case work – it allows Constituents to quickly get in touch with any concerns and in return for me as a Councillor to respond.
4. How do you see social media playing a positive part in local council and community ?
I’m sure it does, as you can communicate with a lot of people quickly but I’m not convinced that it is always the right platform to get across certain issues. You do tend to find that because it is quick and easy to just click on an e-petition for example, lots of people do but I’m not sure most would fully understand the issue without a more meaningful debate behind it and the campaign can quickly drift, some issues can take a long time to resolve. For me you cannot replace people power with local people taking the time to attend a Council meeting to express their feelings, it really shows they are concerned, what is more powerful, an electronic petition with thousands of signatures or 120 angry vociferous people sat in the public gallery at a meeting?