Resignation as a Councillor from Ivybridge Town Council.

With some sadness, I resigned as a Councillor from Ivybridge Town Council effective 7th February 2012.

The last 9 months have given me the belief that the Council wishes to work in a significantly more ‘traditional’ way than I can cope with. For me personally email is a key aspect to how I work, and the only way I could hope to communicate with everyone I need to, given the hours I work.

I am physically unable to commit my time to face-to-face meetings for simple things such as raising questions, whilst still operating a business and hoping to still have a family life.

Before becoming a Councillor, I wouldn’t have believed that an organisation operating in today’s world, would or could take a strong position against using email. I do not believe, as some people have suggested, that there is any attempt to stifle debate or disclosure. Rather I believe that it can be explained in terms of people who are used to working in a different way and prefer to continue with the  familiar.

All that said and done, it has been very interesting being a Town Councillor. I have made some great friendships that I hope will continue. I have had the chance to learn about some amazing people who give so generously of themselves and their time for the benefit of others and with virtually no public recognition. I am still stunned and embarrassed at how little I can do compared to these fantastic people. Groups such as the Community First Responders (see and who literally save lives!

Sure there have been frustrations, but in total it has been without doubt a positive experience.

I would recommend to anyone who wants to become more involved in their local area and help be part of the solution to challenges rather than just moan about them, to consider standing as a Local Town / Parish Councillor – and if you’re in Ivybridge, I happen to know of a vacancy 😉

Princes’ Foundation Master Planning at the Watermark draws to a close

The initial phase of the intensive ‘Enquiry by Design’ process drew to a close last night (Thursday 10th November) at a Public session entitled “Presentation of the Two Masterplans”.

The event was very well attended (the large hall in the Watermark was at maximum capacity) and personally I felt the mood of the room was warm and interested.

My understanding is that the next phase involves the Plans that the Princes’ Foundation proposed, will be brought together and made publicly available in a way that everyone can view, discuss and give their feedback on. All of which I’m very much looking forward to.

In the mean time a discussion about peoples thoughts at last nights meeting has started on Ivybridge Matters…

FREE Bank Holiday – Ivybridge Spring in the Park 2011

Don’t miss this FREE event on Bank Holiday Monday 30th May at Filham Park

Spring In the Park is a great FREE community event for the whole family, but especially those with Children! Starting at 10:30 and running until 16:00.

! FREE ! Activities include:

  • Children’s Treasure Hunt (11:00-14:00)
  • Mini-Beast investigation (pond-dipping with Dr Osmond)
  • Circus Skills workshop
  • Fly-Ball demonstration
  • Birds of Prey
  • Bouncy Castle
  • Face Painting
  • Cricket Under 13’s match
  • Cricket Adult 20/20 match
  • FREE Entry  & FREE Entry

I have to say I’m so impressed at how much FREE stuff is being laid on, with something for everyone.

There’s also going to be:

  • BBQ & refreshments from at the Cricket Club bar
  • Stalls & sideshows

A Poster has been released with more details. Here’s a link:
Ivybridge Spring In The Park 2011 Poster

Invest a couple of minutes to Print out the poster and pop it in your car or house window 🙂  let people know about it, spread the word and build your community!

There’s a little more information on the Ivybridge Town Council Events Page including information about opportunities for Stallholders!

Ivybridge Town Council Newsletter June 2011

The Ivybridge Town Council Newsletter for June 2011 has been published today.

It includes the following:

  • An introduction to the new Town Mayor (Councillor Trevor Parsons).
  • How the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) can help you and how to contact them in Ivybridge.
  • Some editorial about the Royal Wedding event in Erme Court, including pictures.
  • Information about Rail Services (did you know 65,000 people used our station in the last 12 months, and substantial discounts are available?)
  • Editorial about the Annual Town Meeting and the Interactive Voting system used by the public!
  • Introduction to the ‘New Faces’ on the council (including yours truly)
  • More details about the ‘Love Your Park’ event in Victorial Park on Friday 10th June.
It’s easy reading, FREE, and shows you something about how YOUR MONEY is spent – so go on – give it a read 🙂

Use this link to download the Ivybridge Town Council Newsletter for June 2011

The newsletter is a pdf document. The Adobe Reader that displays this type of document is FREE! If you have any problems reading it, check this page about adobe pdf files and download the reader for your computer.

Finally – do use the comment section below to give me feedback on this or any post, or you can email me on

My first town council meeting

Well Monday night was the first Town Council meeting I have attended as a Councillor. All of the other Councillors and Town Council staff were very friendly and helpful and put me at my ease. Luckily I had already met most of them at least to shake hands with.

I found the meeting itself (sitting up the front) less daunting than I had thought it might be. There is plenty of paperwork to shuffle through and the pace is reasonably fast. But I think I held my own and didn’t get left behind 🙂

In terms of reporting back what happened, most of it was the official (legal) business of getting the ‘new’ council to exist properly, there was a vote for the new Mayor, a vote for the new Deputy Major, then everyone considered who should be on what committees. I’m down to be on the Watermark Committee and the Governance Committee which both meet monthly, and the Emergency Working Group which meets every 6 months. So more on those as I learn it myself!

To be honest I was so busy keeping up that I haven’t much more to report in terms of what happened. Suffice to say that the main big items were:

  1. County Councillor Croad matched Ivybridge Town Councils £20,000 Localism fund with a further £20,000 from his locality budget. This is fantastic news for the charities that ‘pitched’ for funding at last Monday’s public participation event.
  2. An event is being planned in Victoria Park on Friday 10th June to bring everyone together to have a great evening and discuss the anti-social behavior issues that have been occurring in the park there. I don’t know much about this yet, but will find out more and post about it when I do.
So all in all – I survived my first official duty as a Town Councillor and have to say I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the Committees and learning more.

Elected Unopposed – time for the paperwork

In the end, just enough people stood for the right number of seats in the Ivybridge Town Council elections. Because of that, there won’t be an election (as there isn’t anyone to chose between).

I must admit it feels very strange to be taking on a (minor) ‘public office’ without having been ‘to the vote’, but I guess this re-emphasises my basic concern that people just don’t seem interested in any of it.

I console myself with the vain hope that if I do the job well, then at least I’ll have a sense of accomplishment. If I mess it up – then maybe, just maybe, it will motivate someone with more talent than myself to step forward and have a shot at it.

Either way here’s a tiny glimpse into the exciting world of Local Government… the paperwork begins.

I need to get the following together in the next day or so…

  • Declaration of Acceptance of Office (& witnessed by the Town Clerk)
  • General Notice of Registerable Interest (although a new form maybe issued soon)
  • Contact Details Form (so that the council, and the public can contact me)
  • Select the Training Courses I think I should go on
  • Select the Committee’s I’d like to be on
  • Consider if there’s any Outside Organisations I’d like to be a representative for.
So I’d better get on with that then.

Standing for election to Ivybridge Town Council

First let me mention a couple of facts:

  1. My business’ office is in a town council owned building in the centre of Ivybridge.
  2. I tend to work late.

As a result, I found myself wandering past the Town Council meetings on several occasions. I eventually poked my head around the corner at the right time and ended up sitting in on a few.

List of things that struck me about the Town Council meetings

(in the order they occurred to me)

  1. The age range of the Councillors is not very representative of the age range of the Ivybridge population.
  2. They take what they do seriously whilst still being interested and caring.
  3. They receive an interesting, informative and yet succinct summary of Policing in Ivybridge every month.
  4. They manage a not insignificant budget – approx £380,000
  5. Virtually none of the approx 12,000 residents attended the full council meetings I went to.
  6. Almost everyone of the 3 or 4 members of the public who attended the full council meetings were there to discuss a particular issue they were experiencing (which is perfectly reasonable – I mean they weren’t just generally there to hold the Council accountable).
  7. The meetings aren’t desperately exciting – although me being me, I found them quite interesting 🙂

This set me thinking. Surely people should be more engaged in this process – know more about and have more say in how their money is spent ?!? Surely?

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone who spoke, whether public or Councillor, obviously cared about Ivybridge and it seems to me they’re doing their job. But to my mind, the process of Town Council seems very disconnected from the individual people it serves.

So, me being me, I wanted find out how else it could be done.

In my work, I see diverse groups of people coming together everyday on the internet and achieving amazing things. So I started wondering whether there’s a way of bringing ‘modern communication’ techniques together with the tried and tested methods of Town Council governing.

After a few months of cogitating, and lots of chatting with friends, colleagues and acquaintances, I decided I’d try to do something constructive.

This weekend I set the ball rolling…

  1. I’ve registered the domain
  2. I’ve put myself forward and been nominated to stand for election to the Ivybridge Town Council in the forthcoming 5th May 2011 local elections. In fact I handed in the nomination papers at Follaton House in Totnes this morning.

What do I want to stand for?

Better community involvement & communication through modern technology.

I think using the internet to bring the council and electorate closer together will be a difficult but acheivable target. I’d like to help grow into a hub of information and discussion about what the Ivybridge Council is doing. It should work closely with social media sites such as twitter and facebook to allow people to use the websites they are most comfortable with.

I’d like to enable some of the following…

  1. …people to state their opinions, however diverse, about issues to be discussed at the next council meeting
  2. …people to ‘vote’ on the website for opinions that they support
  3. …people to comment on and debate opinions
  4. …people to share links to pertinent facts about what’s being discussed
  5. …someone (me?) to summarise these opinions at the council meeting and note the responses and actions / votes that occur as a result
  6. …people to receive an easy to read summary of what happened in the council meeting and how their opinions were received and acted on

That point number 5 was the one I struggled with most. Trying to figure out how to link the website community with the council itself until I realised I was avoiding doing it myself.

Hence my standing for election.

I’m really interested in trying this approach to see if people will get involved.

I appreciate it’s a new way of working and could take many months and  hard work to get off the ground (assuming it works at all), but I’d much rather live in a Town that worked this way. So maybe together we can get the council to embrace this way of involving the electorate in the day to day business of how their money is invested.