June 1 2021…
Being a councillor is an important job, and each of us has to decide how much time we spend each day or week in our role, especially those who have caring responsibilities, full time jobs, or other voluntary commitments. I’m fortunate to be able to devote a lot of my time to it, and I really admire my colleagues who manage to fit in their work as a councillor with other obligations.
Now that things have settled down after the May elections, I thought it might be useful to share a typical day.
I usually start the day catching up with emails and checking out what’s being said on social media. I know they say you shouldn’t read what they say about you on Twitter and Facebook, but I’m afraid I can’t resist. Today I spent a productive couple of hours dealing with email, answering the pressing stuff and flagging the things that could wait, and found time to like and retweet some comments that resonated with me.
I helped out a couple of fellow councillors deal with a biodiversity issue and a road closure issue – because we work as a team. I’m always calling or WhatsApping (is that a word? I think it is now..) others to discuss issues outside my area of expertise where I need guidance, and I’m happy to do the same.
A lot of time goes into coordination. It’s a lot easier now that we can meet virtually – at least for most things (let’s not forget that the Conservative government refused to extend the provisions to let us hold council meetings online, forcing us to sit at suitably distanced school desks in the Corn Exchange for last week’s full council meeting).
Today I managed to set up a video call with members of the Cambridge Doughnut Economics Action Group, CamDEAG, so that we can make progress on our manifesto pledge to create a digital City Portrait as the first step towards using the doughnut economics model to measure our progress towards being a net zero carbon city.
I’ve set up some other virtual meetings, checked two planning applications on the planning portal, and called building control about unauthorised works where I think enforcement might be required. And because we have a great planning service, it looks like one of our officers will be to check things later today.
Later in the morning I had a briefing from two officers on an update on some transport matters that I must consider before a report comes to the next Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee. Five reports to double check and agree before they are issued later this week.
And then it was time to set off on my electric cargo bike for the sheer joy of visiting a bird sanctuary close to the centre of our city. It was amazing!! While I enjoyed a walk around the county and city wildlife site, we discussed how the place might get connected with local schools so the children could learn more about protecting biodiversity and how we might learn more about protecting such spaces by talking with the EU protected Wicken Fen, a REMSAR and SSSI site.
Nothing is straightforward, however, and there are issues around changes to permitted development rights that might have a negative impact on this amazing place, so I addressed a question asked of me and the planning department about using an Article 4 directive to provide extra protection if necessary. The officers are looking into this.
Then it was home via the shops to get the ingredients I needed to cook supper. No meetings, but I do have a report to write about a property visit I carried out for my job as an architect. There’s always something to do.. and as long as I stay off Twitter and don’t check my email, I might get the report done.