The local elections are now over and the Council approaches the new municipal year by reflecting on what you, the people of Swindon, have told us at the ballot box.
I would like to thank all those who voted. In this age of consumerism and cynicism, it is easy to forget that democracy is built on participation and that citizens have a duty to inform themselves about the local government for which you are asked to vote. It is not as easy as picking a preferred contestant on a TV talent show as a Council provides hundreds of different services and there are no easy ways to tell which may be more important, which may deserve more funding, or which can be let go. Therefore, for all those who voted, you have my thanks.
It can be too easy to take our democracy for granted. Some of you may recall that a Swindon resident, Edith New, was one of the leading suffragettes who was arrested in 1908 while campaigning for women to have the right to vote in Parliamentary elections.
I would like to pay particular thanks to Brian Mattock, who, having served as a Councillor since 2006, was not relected. Brian served as Deputy Leader of the Council since 2013 and was the Cabinet Member responsible for Adult Social Care and Public Health. As such, he was responsible for overseeing how nearly half the Council’s £135m annual budget was spent.
This was a huge responsibility as it affects some of the most vulnerable members of community, both the elderly and those with learning difficulties. Brian has both managed the budgets effectively and, with the officers and our partners, sought to ensure that people are cared for adequately and with dignity.
Above all, Brian helped me by attending the innumerable meetings with partner organisations, voluntary groups, and Council Officers that form part of the daily life of running a local authority. Brian’s professional background as a senior Council Housing Officer also helped manage those necessary tensions between what politicians’ desire on behalf of residents and what the Council can afford or deliver.
Brian is a great example of someone who has given back to the local community and a worthy model for all newly elected councillors to follow. Councillors from all parties will miss his contribution and I would like to thank him for supporting me so well.