Councillor Katrina Atherton has written a response letter to a criticisms made about Mansfield District Council in a commentary article published in last week’s Mansfield Chad.
I became a councillor because I was really annoyed with people speaking for me, people telling me about my life, people making decisions and judgements for me and my friends without ever meeting us.
I’d had enough of seeing the same old faces and the same old arguments and talks about the past, so what if someone said something you didn’t like 10 years ago, what’s happening now?
I decided I had to stop complaining and do something about it.
When I announced to my family and friends that I’d joined a political party and was standing for election they were surprised.
No one in my family had been in a trade union, never mind a political party.
My grandad told me not to do it, that “they will bleed you dry”.
My grandad died a few months later, and the behaviour of the county council after his death (Conservative at the time), solidified in my mind that standing and representing my community was the right thing to do.
For me, being a councillor is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, I’ll speak in a school and get young people excited and interested in their community, on another I’ll get shouted at and called names in the street by a stranger – I went home and cried, so I hope it was worth it shouty man.
I’ll get support from county councillors, district councillors and officers to get a new play park, paint children’s faces when it opens, get mums and dads saying thank you, and then another day a stranger will label me greedy, a hypocrite, a liar, purely because that’s what politicians are aren’t they? I’ve asked for it haven’t I?
No, not really,
I’ve asked for a fairer deal for my village, I’ve asked for more recognition for young people, I’ve spoken against out of town developments that damage our economy, I’ve stood with colleagues across parties to defend women, refugees, disabled people.
At the same time I work, I’m a school governor, I’m a charity trustee, I’m a career champion.
Councillors are people, party politics aside, we’re human beings and we’re not perfect. People become councillors for different reasons, some good some bad.
Have you not noticed that all the ‘petty’ councillors are the same few faces? Are they your councillor? Are you annoyed too? Join the club!
Sometimes, I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall,
I’m challenging people who don’t want to listen, who twist my words and who laugh at my ideas, and then there are people who are happy to collaborate, who want to work together, who are happy to put politics aside when it’s needed.
More often than not, these decisions are made quietly, because there aren’t any arguments and nothing controversial happens. It’s pretty boring, we’re just doing our jobs, so it goes unnoticed.
The hard bit is the relentless arguing from the few, people don’t like it, and I don’t like it. From those few who refuse to collaborate, it’s exhausting, it reflects badly on all of us and it makes people like me want to jack it in.
So what would my message be? Are you annoyed like me? Stand up. Be counted. Come to council meetings and see who is working for you, who looks out to their community and who looks internally to point score. Decide for yourself who is looking out for you. Don’t let the good councillors, whoever they are and whatever party they represent, fade away and run out of steam. We’re people too, and we’re working for you.