Step Up Cymru Mentee Journal - Terry Rees
Mentor - Cllr Mair Stephens
Second Meeting With Mentor, 11 November 2009
Full Carmarthenshire County Council at County Hall. Parking bay 55. Beginning to feel wanted and ashamed of my anti Carmarthenshire attitude that is almost in-bred in Pembrokeshire folk.
More of Mair’s excellent tea before taking my place in the press box of the chamber., which conveniently is next to Mair’s seat. A reporter from the local ’rag’ took notes, impressively translating from Welsh to shorthand English.
The meeting started promptly with the chairman opening the meeting. Steeling myself for a tedious few hours if the long agenda was anything to go by I donned my translation device and tried to concentrate.
How pleasantly surprised I was by the relaxed formality of proceedings. A presentation by a group of health workers showing how hard they had worked to improve the quality of food used by Council establishments and how successful they were in increasing the use of local produce supplied by local traders was meet with genuine and heartfelt approval by all in the chamber.
A note of parochial pleasure, Mr Davies, representing WAG, responded by presenting the platinum award to the chairman, is a Pembrokeshire man. A fact I was pleased he let ‘slip’, causing some playful derision from certain sections.
At 11 am the two minute silence the day demanded was observed, as one would expect, immaculately.
The meeting ended with an act of real political intrigue. A new vice chair was elected to the scrutiny committee, the chair being my mentor. I asked her later what would have happened had her favoured candidate not won. Quiet simply she said she would have had to resign! Pretty dramatic.
I left the meeting feeling that my political understanding was developing rapidly.
My next meeting is a joint venture between County and Community Councillors at the new racecourse ‘Ffoslas’ near Llanelli. My experience as a community councillor a decade ago makes me think that the notion whilst is an excellent one to promote understanding and improve communication between the two tiers of government maybe misplaced. Watch this space for my reflections.
First Meeting With Mentor, 22 October 2009
Feeling somewhat unsure of what to expect and how I would cope with the complexity of local government as I perceive it, I arrived rather early.
On a gloomy overcast morning the ex-prison looked every bit as you would expect from a building knick-named locally ‘Colditz’.
My initial contact with Carmarthenshire Local Authority was to be greeted by an attendant who told me Cllr Mair was expecting me and he directed me to car park space number 76. Very impressed. Carmarthenshire get full marks for organisation and communication.
My mentor was waiting to greet me; which she did warmly and sincerely.
A cuppa in the Councillors’ lounge made by Mair. There is no canteen due to a cost cutting exercise.
After an exchange of niceties and family background we planned ten meetings thus satisfying part of Step Up criteria. They range from the first a full council to an on site planning meeting. Hope it's dry!
Time whizzed by as we discussed the workings of local government and how detailed each step in the process of putting an idea into reality needed to be, thus ensuring things are legal and politically acceptable.
Mair’s frankness and openness revealed how deeply she believes in the democratic system and how much of her life she dedicates to serving her constituents and community.
The guided tour around the ex prison ended our first, very worthwhile, meeting.
As I walked down the ornate steps of County Hall and waved goodbye to Mair, I felt that I had made a new friend and was already looking forward to our next meeting.
The drive home gave me time to reflect on my experience; maybe my scepticism was misplaced, not all politicians are as portrayed in the media and public opinion. Those I’d meet so far seem dedicated to the cause. Time will tell if I am romanticising or not.