Wales politics

Welsh local elections 2017: Councillors reveal all

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With a basic salary of just £13,800 and being at the beck and call of the public 24/7, who would want to be a local councillor?

Yet, on 4 May, many will put themselves forward for one of the 1,254 seats up for grabs in Wales.

But what does your local councillor really think of their job, colleagues and the public they serve?

When offered the chance to speak anonymously, and these councillors and former councillors agreed to spill all.

Some details have been changed to protect the anonymity of the interviewees.

The safe seat councillor who has served for decades

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'A lot of people want to be a councillor just because it looks good'

"It's true, you get phone calls at very inappropriate times and sometimes I'd like to stick that phone where the sun don't shine. Some of the questions you get asked are ridiculous but, nevertheless, they expect you to know the answer. But there's also a lot of satisfaction when you're able to help someone. I've spent this morning dealing with the bus companies and it looks I'm getting somewhere so it's been a good day. One year we had a Christmas tree blow down and I was there on Christmas Day and Boxing Day trying to sort it out. I was thinking: "What am I doing this for?" Financially, forget it, you're way out of pocket. Unfortunately a lot of people want to be a councillor just because it looks good but they're not interested in doing any of the work. People are always telling me there are too many councillors and we don't need them, and they're probably quite right. On the other hand, a lot of us are there because we want to help and get involved. I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. But I'm single and retired and I have time on my hands. Yesterday I had a phone call from a lady asking if I could trace someone who left the village many years ago. I was able to help her and she was absolutely delighted. There seems to be more and more paperwork as the years go by. A lot of it could be avoided and a lot of it is job creation to be honest with you. I don't get nervous on election night anymore. It wouldn't really bother me if I was deselected. It wouldn't be the end of world. I'd probably give a sigh of relief. "

The disillusioned councillor who quit

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'The male chauvinism was like nothing I'd ever seen before'

"I worked in a very male-dominated industry before becoming a councillor so I was used to dealing with male egos. Despite this, the male chauvinism I encountered at the council was like nothing I'd ever seen before. The personal insults I received wouldn't be tolerated in any other working environment. I'm not the only woman who resigned and I know of other women who did so for similar reasons. I used to dread going into meetings. Some women councillors aren't as vocal as their male colleagues. I think they're afraid to speak out because of the culture of bullying. I had no other choice but to resign. I always thought that politics might be a dirty business but it was far worse than I could have imagined. Anybody with any personal integrity would find it an uphill battle. I did find the ward work really rewarding. You've got to really fight sometimes but I enjoyed that. I like talking to people. There was a family who were going to be evicted so I went to court with them and we won. If I hadn't achieved anything else that would have made it worthwhile. The vast majority of the people I spoke to were only too grateful for the help that you gave them and I enjoyed even the small wins. There was one occasion when I was threatened by a resident at a surgery all because they thought someone had carried out building work without planning permission. After that my partner used to come with me to keep an eye on me at my surgery. Other women councillors I knew had a terrible time on social media. I'm really sad how it turned out and still feel disillusioned by the whole thing."

The councillor who quit the party to go independent

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'Politics is a dirty, stinking world'

"Within weeks of being elected people were approaching me about all sorts of trivial matters. Some of these matters had been going on for eight years and I was able to set up a meeting and get the problem sorted almost straight away. What on Earth had been going on for eight years? What has shocked me is that 90% of people that I help don't even bother to say thank you. I'm not doing it for the thanks but I find it staggering. Then there's the political side which is a dirty, stinking world. I despise politicians quite frankly. I carry on because instead of shouting at the TV now I can challenge these people in the council chamber. But I'm more furious now than I was before I became a councillor. The quality of so many councillors is so low it's nothing short of frightening. You wouldn't let them run a paper stand and they're handling multi-million pound budgets. There's an utter lack of accountability for senior officers' actions. I'm staggered by the level of dishonesty. I see them lying to councillors and committees. There's moral corruption and no accountability. And there's so much wasting of rate payer's money. Every month I get three or four invites asking me to events with free alcohol and food for councillors and their hangers-on. It's absolutely outrageous and I've refused every single invite. I resigned from my party and became an independent because it is as morally corrupt as every other party and I couldn't stand to be in the same room as my party leader."

The 30-something optimist

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'Politics is a vehicle for change'

"I came back from university, one of my parents was ill and I needed something to keep me busy. There was a lack of facilities for children in my area and nothing was getting done about it, so I decided to run as a councillor. Once I was a town councillor I got the council to match fund the park with £25,000. It was a huge confidence boost and finally the kids had somewhere to go. Being a councillor is gruelling and fast-paced. When I went into it I thought I'd be mostly championing local people but there's a broader strategic role and I also need to be a robust opposition councillor. I'm not downbeat on politics because it's a vehicle for change. Politics matters. Sometimes us councillors don't understand the power and the role that we've got. The cabinet are often very remote from the areas they're making decisions about. Part of our challenge is making them aware of that. I love the individual contact I have with constituents. It's great when you can help them out of a hole they're in, such as accessing a food bank. It's a rewarding job and I love what I do and would never change it. I feel a huge weight on my shoulders and don't want to let people down. My constituents have access to me 24/7. It takes a while to adjust to that. I've been called at two in the morning by a lady who was going to court the next day over not paying her bills. She was so upset and I just wished she'd contacted me weeks earlier so I could have stopped it getting to that stage. Being a councillor is a full time job yet you can't live off the wage so you have to work another job, hence the reason most councillors in my area are retired, white men. I think we need to make it more attractive, part of the solution could be paying more."

The never-give-up candidate

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'I want to get face-to-face with people'

"I've stood in all political elections (local, general, by-elections and as a European candidate) for the past 25 years but haven't been successful yet. I'm not party motivated but I'm interested in making money for charity and local causes. I think in local elections the candidates should be from the area and aware of local issues. The problem is most candidates have to stick to set party doctrine and its not clear what they've done as individuals. There's a lot of cronyism in politics, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. It needs a wind of change. No wonder the public are apathetic with all that squabbling amongst each other and leadership problems. The public thinks: "Why should I bother?" People look on me as a joke but I've been raising money for 25 years. If I was a councillor I wouldn't want to go to planning application meetings, I want to get face-to-face with people. And there's so much litter around here that doesn't get picked up so I'm going to get my own team together. I'm not answerable to anyone as an independent, I am who I am. Politicians are after their own interest, half of them."

The about-to-retire councillor

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'Being a leading member of your community is very humbling'

"I was first elected 30 years ago after losing on three previous occasions. Finally coming through as a party of opposition was incredible. When the result was announced the supporters were dancing and singing. Then reality set in. On my first visit to the civic centre, I was blanked by the ruling party members and had a testy first meeting with the chief exec. I learned quickly that to do your job as a councillor you must read everything that comes your way and learn the protocols. The best thing about being a councillor is that it opens doors to organisations who can be of help to you in serving your constituents. I always got a kick out of being able to help my people and always strove to do my best by them, but of course you can't win them all. I always think an honest attempt is sometimes just as good as a success. I am proud that during my tenure I never claimed expenses or allowances but financed myself through my normal employment. Being a councillor is hard work and you are available to your constituents at all hours and in all places. Being a leading member of your community is a very humbling experience. Yes, council meetings can be boring and long-winded but if you concentrate on winning your battles you can produce results for your constituents and local area. Looking back, would I do it again? Yes, of course I would."

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