Monday 24 February 2014 12.48am
I think it's quite legitimate for people to spend three years as a local councillor - living in the area and working for the people in our area - and then to decide that their ambitions go beyond the local and to the national. What they should then do is make this clear and then be honest.
Some councillors with ambition can stay living and working in Southwark - representing their constituents and turning up at surgeries and TRA meetings. They can campaign elsewhere at weekends but at least they are still doing the job our residents gave them.
The difficulty comes when the place people want to stand is a long way from Southwark - should they stay or should they go?
How they handle this is probably the real test. In recent times some councillors have decided to stand as MPs elsewhere and have declared it, changed address and then stood down in Southwark and therefore stopped taking the financial allowance because they were not living here and not holding surgeries and not genuinely being local representatives - this to me is honest and understandable.
Former labour councillor Susan Elan-Jones did this in an open and transparent way and is now MP for Clwyd South - she openly said she was going back to Wales and stood down and did not claim £1000 a month from the people of Southwark while living elsewhere. Some other former Labour councillors were not as honest and had others doing their surgeries while pretending to still be around while in reality spending all their time in the north west.
Being a Southwark councillor is not only about turning up to the 6-weekly council assembly meetings. For most of us it is town hall or TRA meetings Monday-Thursday days and evenings and door knocking at the weekends with Friday evenings off. For me with 14 TRAs in my ward there is rarely a weekday evening off and often a choice of things to go to which means that Poddy and I (and William our excellent third candidate) have to split things between us. Yes, we love it. We fight hard to be able to represent our residents and care about them and don't see it as a stepping stone.
In the last eight years I have lived in Chaucer, Cathedrals, East Walworth, South Camberwell and South Bermondsey. That has helped me understand the different charater of the areas we represent in a way that just being on the Council's Executive-Cabinet did not. As a Chaucer Councillor it has helped for me to live in the ward and beside it too.
For myself I only want to be a local councillor and have no Westminster ambitions - but I understand why friends and colleagues have that wish.
Every time there has been a by-election in Southwark I have hoped that the person elected would be a local person, grounded in the reality of life here and not some Westminster wannabe with more desire to be on TV than on the doorstep - someone who represents and who comes from the area they claim to want to represent. Sadly I too have been disappointed more often than not, and most of the recently elected Labour ones are standing down as this never was what they wanted to be.
Conclusion - we should accept that some councillors will want to move on the be MPs. How they handle it is the real test. Once they declare in a constituency where they plan to really fight it (as opposed to being just listed as a "paper candidate") then they should step down from the Council and stop taking £1000 a month allowances.
Being a Southwark Council
lor is a mixed experience. It takes loads of time, loads of effort and loads of commitment to do it right. It is rewarding emotionally and frustrating a lot of the time. I love doing it. I hope that in May I can carry on again.
Cllr Tim McNally
LibDem Councillor for Chaucer Ward
07903 967 809 / 020 7525 7157