I <3 Parish Councils

I am a parish councillor. The lowest level of local government. The NIMBY committee, the dog poo committee, the grumpy old git committee. Call it what you like, but I love this layer of local government.

I am the leader of Awsworth Parish Council. The Parish Mayor, Madam Chairman. I chair our monthly meetings and deal with issues between meetings with the clerk of the council. Oh and I get a chain of office too…

But what does a parish council do?

Well, it varies a great deal. My council looks after leases to a football club, a youth club and a bowls club, two recreation grounds, a cricket wicket, play equipment and the villiage in bloom displays. The neighbouring council has….. a bench.

My council also has a view on planning applications, such as extensions to properites, access points and new houses and structures. We then post our recommendations to the borough/county councils.

Sometimes they listen to us, and sometimes they don’t. But we give the view of the residents of the village, and it’s important that local residents get their voice heard on issues that effect their area.

As well as recreation and planning, we also have responsibilities, for health and safety and finance. We need to ensure that all our equipment is compliant with health and safety regulations. We also set our own tax for the local community, or precept as it is known. Our £54K precept works out at £1 per household per week, which pays for our council services.

Some people may think we are pointless, but I think we provide a vital service to our local communities, because we are our local communities.

Fighting for a Fair Pension

On Monday UNISON, my trade union, will be balloting its 1.3 million members asking if they will be willing to take strike action over the government’s savage attacks to public sector pensions.

I will be voting “yes”. But this is not a decision I take lightly.

Let me explain how I have come to this important decision.

Firstly the local government pension scheme I pay into is sustainable. The myths the government are peddling about the scheme being unsustainable are simply untrue. People pay into the scheme and people draw upon it when they retire. MORE money is going into the local government pension scheme than is coming out. What is so unsustainable about that? It is also a funded scheme, which means there is a huge pot of money holding the scheme together. Infact the scheme is one of the biggest investors in the UK!

The government will be imposing an increase in contributions. A whopping 50% increase. You pay £100 pension at the moment? You will be paying £150. This would be a days salary a month lost. Every month until you retire. Not to contribute to my pension, but to pay off the banking induced national debt! Effectively a tax on public sector workers asking them to solve a crisis not of their causing. This is why I don’t mind losing a days pay now, as I would be losing a days pay every month until I retire.

This government will also be making that day of retirement further away. For me, a 27 year old, I will be working until I am 68 years old. For a pension I will receive for fewer years and will be worth less.

The government have already changed the terms of my pension by making it worth less each year. A change the unions were not consulted on.

The unions, including UNISON have been in negotiations with the government for 8 months, yet the negotiations have not progressed one bit. These were only negotiations in name, as in reality this was merely a box ticking exercise. This is why at this years TUC conference Dave Prentis said “enough is enough” and made moves to trigger a ballot writing to over 9000 employers giving them notice of our intention.

I will be writing on this issue several times over the next month or so, but I wanted to lay out now the reasons that I will be voting “YES” to protect my pension.

Speaking at Labour conference 2011

I was honoured to be picked to speak at this year’s Labour Party conference in Liverpool. I spoke on an issue very close to my heart: the role of women in politics. In particular, I was speaking against a rule change that could have potentially blocked female delegates from attending the conference.