Today I attended a consultation on the budget by my local Lib Dem party, designed for councillors and members to have their input. This was the first time I had attended any sort of event by the party, my previous involvement has just been delivering leaflets. I thought that this would be the best sort of thing for me to start with as my accountancy background might be fairly relevant.
In fact this was the first time the party had run such an event as they only took over the running of the council in May as a minority administration, which means they will need the support of 4 other councillors to have their budget approved (probably the 5 Labour councillors). I had wanted to write a blog about the good things that the party are planning on doing and maybe mentioning some of the things that regretfully will have to be scaled back, however unfortunately the meeting was confidential - as such I am just going to give an overall flavour into how I found the experience.
Firstly I was very impressed with the knowledge of the councillors present. You imagine councillors know the problems of their areas and their expertise but all of them there had informed opinions on everything that was discussed. You could also see just how much they cared about the area and the things that were discussed. I don't know why that was surprising, after all they spend their lives trying to make the area better for the people who live here, but again it was really impressive.
I was welcomed really warmly by all of them, there was only one other person there who didn't know anyone and they were at the other side of the room, but everyone I spoke to seemed interested in my opinions as well as wanting to know my background etc. I had worried that I'd feel totally out of place but all of them made sure that wasn't the case (I was fortunate that I arrived at exactly the same time as the person whom I'd emailed about the event).
I didn't have too much input initially, in our first group discussions I was more of an enabler/encouraging people to elaborate on their points/making statements in agreement as I didn't really have any expertise to add or feel the authority to. The second discussion however I think I raised a couple of issues that lead to us having more detailed exchange of ideas.
Overall I learned quite a bit about how the council is currently run, what is being spent (and dare I say some waste at the moment). I don't know if anything I'll have put forward will lead to anything (as I don't know the details behind things) but hopefully my input may lead to a couple of things that might not otherwise have been thought about - I felt that way at least. It's given me a taster and hopefully I can go along to a lot more events in the future!