A champion for Leeds residents in their hours of need - YEP letters

"This is my final contribution to the letters page in my current role."

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 6:00 am
Today's letter is Peter Gruen's last in his current role.

Coun Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council, Labour Cross Gates and Whinmoor, writes:

This is my final contribution to the letters page in my current role.

This Thursday many colleagues and new candidates are putting up for council and wait for the judgement of Leeds residents.

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May I share a couple of reflections with readers from a less intense position, not being part of the frenzy of election week?

In my view the vast majority of elected members of all political groups are ‘in it’ to help their constituents and to make a positive difference to their lives.

They work hard, long hours and all week including weekends.

Unlike MPs, unless they are at the top of the authority, they don’t have personal support or an office.

Many, certainly I have, attend many meetings during the day, have ward engagements in the evening and try to catch up on their emails late into the evening.

There is always another important case waiting.

Yes, we are not always successful in all the causes and issues we pursue on behalf of those we represent; but for what it’s worth; the vast majority of us, try.

I believe I have been able to help, advise, guide and make things happen for thousands of my constituents in my 25 plus years as a local councillor.

It has meant incredible perseverance, never giving up and certainly not accepting the first ‘No’ from officers.

Sometimes it has required standing up to officialdom, fighting red tape and rule-bound attitudes and being passionate to make that difference for our constituents.

Simply, being their champion in their hour of need!

This is the role most readers do not see, yet, in my view, it is what we are elected for. What readers do comment on are usually the bigger, more controversial, perhaps more political decisions.

That Civic Hall role is the other part of the job- sitting on Plans or Licensing Panels, leading or supporting on a variety of portfolios and making big budgetary decisions.

Yet, in truth, many of these only involve a handful of leading councillors and their top officers.

In our Leader/Cabinet system, their time and resource commitment to ‘running the council’ is all consuming.

I hope I will be able to write about this more fully and analyse if there is not a better way of doing things.

In the meantime, I sign off with much to thank my constituents for the many voluntary organisations who work tirelessly in this city and all who have helped me over the years.

I have learnt a lot and hopefully have also been a small part of the lives of others.

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