Ever wondered what a Borough Councillor's role entails?

Ever wondered what a Borough Councillor's role entails?
I did! I was elected as a Councillor for the Lynn South & West ward of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk on 5th May 2011.

A little bit about me:
I have lived in South Lynn for 7 years with my wife and work locally for the Norfolk Primary Care Trust as an IT Manager.

I am a Labour Councillor and whilst the local Labour group made some encouraging gains in the May elections (moving from 4 councillors to 13) we are still very much a minority opposition as the Tories hold 42 of the 64 council seats.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Community & Culture Panel

Attended my first overview/scrutiny panel meeting tonight, an interesting 2 hours or so that covered a number of papers that will be considered by cabinet next week from a report on the first season of King's Lynn Town FC to Affordable Housing and Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing. As it was my first such meeting I had taken the view that it might be best to take more of a listening role in proceedings but did feel compelled to ask one question about the number of DVLA penalty points a taxi driver could accrue before being asked to attend a member led Licensing and Appeals Hearing (the proposal was to increase this threshold to reduce the administrative burden and requirement for panel hearings).

I am beginning to find my way around how the council operates in general and can only say that I am very impressed by the knowledge and presentation skills of the Officers who were there to talk members through the proposals contained within the papers.

It was good to see a number of members mixing after the meeting as we adjourned to the Lattice House for a swift half afterwards - as one member put it, the role of a borough councillor is political for 2 hours a month at 'Full Council', for the rest of time we are all in it together.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Guest post: The bitter irony of using the financial crisis to scrap the NHS | UK Uncut

Very interesting blog post from the UK Uncut site, on the day they took part in an Emergency Operation to highlight the bankers part in current government plans to break up the NHS under an austerity drive. Not sure that I would necessarily make the link between the suggested changes as a reaction to acute financial crisis, much more of an ideological change in response to projected rising costs in the NHS but the link between the US healthcare system and the sub-prime crisis is an important in the context that, to most observers, the Health & Social Care Bill is a huge step towards a US style healthcare here in England.

Guest post: The bitter irony of using the financial crisis to scrap the NHS | UK Uncut

Does letter spell rethink on King’s Lynn incinerator plan? - Environment - Eastern Daily Press

Hope on the horizon....

Does letter spell rethink on King’s Lynn incinerator plan? - Environment - Eastern Daily Press

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Busy, busy night

It turns out that next week is the first meeting of the Community & Culture Panel so I was able to attend the West Lynn Forum after all. In addition, there was a South Lynn Neighbourhood Partnership meeting to attend and fitting them both in was a bit of a squeeze!

First off, and straight from work, a meeting of the South Lynn Neighbourhood Partnership at the NORA project offices, the main subject for discussion: Whether the South Lynn Neighbourhood Partnership should become a fully constituted body, continue without administrative support from the Borough Council's Neighbourhood Officer or disband. There didn't appear to be a huge appetite for any option and it was eventually agreed to hold a separate meeting to discuss the options in more detail, perhaps with more representatives from around the patch.

This decision was taken after I had to leave to make it over to St Peter's Church in time for the West Lynn Forum meeting, in this instance a fairly special meeting that had representatives from the Norfolk Local Government Association and the Leader of the Borough Council to discuss the options, benefits and otherwise of West Lynn establishing a Parish Council. There does appear to be a healthy appetite for such a body within West Lynn but there is a long road ahead with a Local Governance Review required and this could take up to 12 months. The Borough Council appear broadly supportive of such a review and the Leader took on board my point about wanting to ensure that a broad spectrum of West Lynn residents were consulted as there are obvious financial consequences in terms of parish precept which would affect all local residents, not just the 30 or 40-odd residents who would like to have more say in local matters. It is clear that there is some way to go before a decision can be reached and I can only promise to be as good a representative as possible in the meantime.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control | Left Foot Forward

Very interesting piece by Shadow Environment Minister Gavin Shuker MP about the shambolic department that the hopes of West Norfolk's anti-incinerator lobby currently rest with. Makes you worry for the future....

Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control | Left Foot Forward

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Full Council Meeting

Attended my first full council meeting tonight, what have I let myself in for..... ;)

Seriously though, tonight was all about the ceremonial mayor making and confirming the composition of the various committees, panels and cabinet etc.

First things first, two things really impressed me tonight. As with every experience of the Borough Council staff so far, the event was very well organised, councillors being photographed for ID cards and website information etc and being welcomed and introduced to staff from various different departments from democratic services to communications. I was also very impressed with the Town Hall - my first time inside what is a very historic looking building from the outside and I can only say it is every bit as historic looking from the inside - wasn't able to take it all in tonight but will make it my mission to explore and soak up as much of the culture as possible over the coming months and years.

So what of the ceremony? Have to admit that I felt a little ambushed to have been asked to stand as the Mayoral procession passed through the hall then remain standing for the 'chaplain's prayers'. As a firm atheist I do not like having religion imposed upon me and it was all I could do to remain standing against my better instincts.

I became involved in the first party political actions as the Labour councillors abstained from the voting for the position of Mayor - a protest at not having been consulted in the nomination process. I can understand the point of view as the opposition councillors feel that such non-political decisions should be a little more proportional now that the Tory majority has been slashed from 5:1 to 2:1. The flip side of this is of course, that even if the Tories had agreed to a fully consultative process they could still have skewed the result in their favour by dint of their majority anyway. The hope is that an opposition councillor will be given the opportunity to stand as mayor in future years but by the tone of some of the conversations I overheard afterwards I would not hold my breath.

I discovered that I had not only been nominated as a member of the Community & Culture Panel but had been nominated as Vice Chair. Had mixed feelings when my nomination was voted down by the majority Tory contingent. On one hand I am not sure such an inexperienced councillor should or could be an effective Vice Chair of any panel but it is clear that, as the Tory contingent was able to pass pretty much anything it wanted at the full council meeting, it might have been useful for at least some of the positions of authority to be filled by opposition councillors.

Had an interesting, long conversation with one of the aldermen of the council in attendance, a ward constituent and Labour party member who I met for the first time back in October as the ward members met to consider the available candidates for our ward. I was very grateful on that occasion as a new party member to have been so readily accepted as a potential councillor by party members and was very pleased to have the chance to have a catch up this evening, especially as it gave me the opportunity to learn a little more about some of the issues I will no doubt be involved in in the next few years - in particular regarding whether or not there should be a West Lynn Parish Council; it appears there is a growing campaign for such a body but it seems to be based in all of the positive things that could come out of having a parish council for the locality and does not really cover any of the negatives, principally the requirement for a parish council precept to be added to council tax bills. As the Council's chief exec explained at our new Councillors' induction session on Tuesday, this can be as high as an extra 10% of the existing council tax bill.

Will be attending my first Community & Culture Panel on Tuesday next week and in doing so will miss the first meeting of the West Lynn Forum since the election (also had to miss the South Lynn SNAP meeting on Tuesday due to the new councillors inductions). With so many conflicts already in the diary, it seems the hard work has only just begun....

Friday, May 13, 2011

letter to the editor

Got home from a very tiring day at work to discover that my letter (below) to the Lynn News had been published...

Dear Sirs

Having been involved in my first election campaign over the past few months, culminating in Thursday's election and Friday's count, I feel it is important to express gratitude to the dozens of staff and volunteers who worked behind the scenes to make the election happen. In particular, I was impressed at how professional the vote counting was; in the face of scrutiny from candidates, agents and other interested parties the counting staff just got on with what in some instances was a very difficult task, counting votes for multiple councillor wards and in a few cases, being asked to re-count. A mention should also go to those who staffed the polling stations on Thursday and the very efficient Democratic Services team at the Borough Council. All of those who stood for election, whether successful or not, would have been quick to express gratitude to their colleagues and helpers when the results were announced but without the hard work of all of those behind the scenes, elections such as these would not happen so smoothly.

Yours faithfully

Gary McGuinness
Newly Elected Borough Councillor for South & West Lynn
longside my copy of the Lynn News, I also received a letter from the Borough Councillor with several references to me with a mis-spelt surname!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A week of form filling

The first council meetings don't take place until next week (an induction for new councillors on 17th May and the first full council meeting on 19th May) and much of the first few days of being a Borough Councillor have been spent catching up with missed work and filling in various forms to be sent back to the Council.

Have had to miss the first full meeting of the Local Labour Group which will have determined the group leader and nominated members to sit on various committees etc - had a pre-existing arrangement in London in the early evening that just couldn't be re-arranged.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Spent almost all day at the Corn Exchange watching the counting of votes. Never realised how much work goes into the counting of an election's votes and in this particular instance there were two or three votes going on with Parish & Borough Council elections being run alongside the AV referendum.

Results for the Borough Council elections started trickling through at around 2pm after all ballots had been verified but were then suspended whilst the AV referendum was counted (a national requirement that all AV counts were conducted at 4pm).

The results for my ward were finally announced at around 7pm and I both myself and Charles Joyce were elected! the full results were:

Lynn South and West (two seats)

Charles Joyce (Labour) – 546 *

Gary McGuinness (Labour) – 467 *

Geoff Daniell (Conservative) – 354

Val Daniell (Conservative) – 302

Jonathan Burr (Green Party) – 224

The hard work starts here!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Leaflets all delivered, polling stations open

Finally managed to get the last of my leaflets out at around 9pm last night.

Having put in extra hours at work over the past few days I have been able to confirm that I am able to take Friday off to attend the count.

Will be visiting the polling station at NORA project offices to cast my own votes at around 6pm this evening, other than that it is now in the hands of the electorate as to whether I am successful.

Monday, May 2, 2011

One down... One to go

Master stroke by the organisers of GEAR to have it run the day before a bank holiday! extra time to recuperate...

Clocked a time of 54 Minutes 54 Seconds in the Grand East Anglia Run yesterday, 772nd of the 1479 runners - very pleased considering when I started running last November I wasn't able to run any more than around half a mile.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Running... in more ways than one

Spent much of the past few months spending every minute of my spare time preparing for two events that will both be over by the end of the next 7 days.

First up, today, my first ever 10km road race in the Grand East Anglia Run through the streets of King's Lynn. I will be running in aid of the Norfolk Hospice and I am aiming to complete in less than an hour. Visit www.justgiving.com/Gary-McGuinness for further details.

Then comes the main event, the Borough Council elections on Thursday. There are five candidates contesting 2 seats on the council, myself and an experienced candidate, Charles Joyce for Labour. One of the incumbent councillors, Geoff Daniell and his wife Val standing for the Conservatives and Jonathan Burr a Green candidate.

I still have some leaflets to deliver to residents in West Lynn before the election, I only hope I am able to walk after the exertions of today's run.