There has been much comment in recent days about the cost of politics. Let’s remember the benefits. When communities are politically active they explore their differences, test their varied opinions and values, find innovative resolutions to conflicting interests.
I am one of two RCT councillors representing the 10,000 residents and 5,000 electors of Pontyclun. Together we cost the taxpayer £26,000 a year. Our role is to expand local politics by ever widening representation and participation. Just in the last few months we have worked with local people to
– harness the energy of the community council, volunteers and businesses to replace the Day Centre which RCT Council closed because it could not afford the annual cost of £54,000. We now run a Day Centre with more diners and more social activities at an annual cost to the community council of less than £5000;
– contest the proposal of highway engineers to spend £200,000 on a mini roundabout that would serve little useful purpose; and worked with residents to find more effective solutions to the problems that they face;
– prepare a £250,000 grant application to the ‘Quarry Fund’ for new play and environment facilities – coordinating all the partner organisations, undertaking the public consultation and the procurement procedures;
– develop, Clochemerle style, a contentious model for alternative provision of public toilets, saving £5,000 annually
All such project work is in addition to the daily tasks of challenging bureaucracies to respond to the needs of vulnerable people, report un-emptied bines, examine potholes. Going to council meetings is a tiny part of our workload. We know that we are no different to many hundreds of other councillors in Wales.
Should we be abolished, the community will lose its bridge into public bureaucracies. It may not sound a lot; but the net effect is that the community may well resort to a UKIP style rejection of all things public.