A Labour Councillor in Hackney. Luke Akehurst, is stepping down after 12 years, and has written ten things he’s learned in his time in local government.
Putting party differences aside for the moment, there are some useful things for candidates from any party , especially the last five:
6) Getting stuff done as a ward councillor can be a marathon not a sprint. When I first stood in 2002 we pledged to rebuild two very rundown housing blocks, Bridge House and Marian Court. That project is happening, but it isn’t complete yet as I come off the Council now.
7) But never take no for an answer. I was told “the Council will never fit security doors on Trelawney Estate, there’s no budget for it” and “the Council will never agree to adopt Stevens Avenue (an un-adopted road hence no street lighting or road or pavement repairs), it sets too expensive a precedent”. Loud campaigning on both by the three ward councillors meant that miraculously the budgets were found to do both.
8) Life as a councillor is a lot easier when you have good colleagues in your ward. I’ve been very lucky to be in a mutually supportive team for 12 years with Guy Nicholson and Sally Mulready as ward councillors. I’ve seen councillors who fall out with a ward colleague or have to carry the workload for someone not pulling their weight made completely miserable by it.
9) Campaigning and casework aren’t separate activities. If you don’t canvass and deliver survey leaflets you won’t find out about most of the problems people in your ward want sorting out. Similarly when you do casework most of the people you do it for are far more likely to bother to vote for you.
10) Good officers are as important as good councillors to driving forward change. We were very lucky that at the point when we really needed to improve Hackney we were able to persuade key people like then Chief Exec Max Caller to take a huge risk with their careers and be part of Jules Pipe’s attempt at rescuing what was a badly failing council. Without dedicated and incredibly hard-working civil servants implementing the changes Labour wanted, we wouldn’t have been able to turn Hackney round.
Hat-Tip to Southend councillor Julian Ware-Lane for this.