Reflecting on the highs and lows of three years in parish council hot seat

June 04 2019
Reflecting on the highs and lows of  three years in parish council hot seat

Alan Tidy, who has stood down as chairman of St Peter’s Parish Council after three years in the role, reflects on his time in the chair

I was co-opted on to the parish council in 2015, just a year after I had taken early retirement.

At 56, I was not ready for a quiet life and I read that St Peter’s Parish Council was looking for additional councillors as so few had been elected that year.

Having spent the previous 30 years stuck in offices and planes, trains and automobiles, I was very happy to take on the green spaces portfolio, which covered the four parks in St Peter’s and the Parish Warden Service, as this would get me involved in more outdoors activities.

The Friends of Power Park had just been renamed the Friends of St Peter’s Parks and we set about revamping that into a volunteer-run group, which I chaired and which became focused on physical improvements to green spaces across the parish.

I was clear when I joined that I did not just wish to be called a councillor and shuffle paper around for four years, achieving nothing.

As a small council with a precept of less than £40,000 a year – half of which goes on administration of one sort or another and another quarter on the Parish Warden Service – I was aware that we could not do grand projects but with a little bit of cash and some judicious recycling we could make a difference.

Other councillors shared my view and, much to my surprise, after only a year on the council I was elected chairman in 2016 and again in 2017 and 2018.

Best practice says that a chairman should serve no more than two years, three at a push, so that they do not begin to think that they and the council are one and the same thing.

I therefore knew that I would need to stand down as chairman in 2019, much though I enjoyed the role.

It is much easier to be chairman if you have a great bunch of supportive councillors around you and I have been very fortunate in that respect.

The key positives from my time in the chair include:

  • Re-establishment of a positive co-operative relationship between the parish council and the Village Hall Association
  • The opening of our parish council office with our new clerk
  • The introduction of new mini football pitches in Power Park, Grasshopper Park and Aldersey Park
  • Successfully lobbying for the revamping of the Battenhall Park Play Area
  • Planting more than 300 trees and nearly 4,000 bulbs across the parish
  • Re-establishing the St Peter’s Festival as an annual event with a dedicated festival organiser
  • Successfully campaigning for the early construction of the footbridges over the A4440
  • Establishing Pentangle Orchard in Battenhall Park
  • Reintroducing small grants to local community groups

Some negatives too:

  • Waging a three-year losing battle to keep the Area 51 play equipment in Power Park usable 
  • Failing to convince our local youth to respect their environment and keep the litter under control at the youth shelter which was subsequently removed
  • Failing to find a way forward on a deliverable plan for a replacement for the Village Hall when the lease expires in 2027

On balance, I think we achieved as much as we could with the limited resources we have had and I hope in my time in the chair we have managed to put some renewed vigour into the parish council’s interaction with the community.

The fact we have had our first contested elections in 25 years with a good turnout of 35 per cent might indicate that we are not yet an irrelevance.

I was delighted to be returned to serve a further four-year term on our council and also delighted to see my vice-chairman, Alan Tucker, be elected as chairman in succession to me.

Alan is a tireless behind the scenes worker for the parish and fully deserves to be chairman.

I am going to continue as chairman of the Friends of the Parks and on the festival organising committee, so people will still see me out and about in St Peter’s doing my bit.