Could you be a Chichester District Councillor?

Gordon McAra
Gordon McAra

NEXT spring sees voters heading to the polls to cast their ballot in the Chichester District Council elections.

From planning and housing to economic development and sea defences, district councillors play a huge role in determining the future of the area.

Three councillors who were elected for the first time in 2011 have all shared their experiences on what they learnt, the pitfalls and triumphs, and tips for newcomers.

Carol Purnell stood as the Conservative candidate for Selsey North and is now the cabinet member for housing and planning.

Gordon McAra stood as an independent candidate for Midhurst and Michael Woolley stood as a Liberal Democrat for the Chichester East ward.

All three said they were intending to stand for re-election next year.

C141002-1 Chi Michael Woolley  phot kate SUS-140711-170624001

C141002-1 Chi Michael Woolley phot kate SUS-140711-170624001

“The reason why I wanted to stand for election was I thought I could do a better job and having been a councillor in Edinburgh for many years, I knew what to expect,” said Gordon, 67.

“Chichester District Council is a very non-political council, they’re actually really nice people and unusually the cabinet listens to everybody, which isn’t apparent in other councils.

“The thing about it is it’s been four years of quite hard work.”

He said he was proud of his time as a representative of Midhurst, as he said the town had come forward and it was good to be able to help with that.

As a county councillor as well, his evenings are often full of parish council meetings.

“My experience is it’s the busier people who can normally take on more work, because they programme their work better,” he said.

“At the end of the day you’ve got to be an active councillor. You can’t just ignore your constituents and turn out at council meetings. You have to be on the ground.”

When asked what he would say to anyone standing for election, he replied: “I would go for it. But the key to winning isn’t just having the ideas, it’s being able to organise an election campaign.”

Anyone interested in becoming a district councillor should visit www.chichester.gov.uk/becomeacouncillor to find out more about what the role entails. The election is on May 7. All nomination papers need to be received by midday on April 9.

Carol Purnell

FOR CAROL Purnell, it has been a busy four years.

She has gone from being a Selsey town councillor with an interest in planning, to cabinet member for housing and planning at the district council.

“I’m proud of the fact I was selected as a cabinet member for an area that fully holds my interest,” said Carol, 63.

She had some key advice to pass on to anyone thinking of standing for the district.

“I would say certainly go for it, but be prepared to learn and be prepared to take an overview.

“The difference between a parish and district is very much as a parish you’re only interested in your small square of area. If you take something like housing numbers, that need is for the whole of the district.”

She said initially she was frustrated, but before long she got to grips with what being a district councillor involved and her responsibility to take an overview.

“I think that was the first real steep learning curve I had to go through,” she said.

She added it was important people realised that being on the district council was not like being on a larger parish council.

“It wasn’t unknown to me, but it was putting it into practice.

“I was told before I became a district councillor, it was different to parish councils, but it’s not until you’re here that you realise how different.”

Michael Woolley

MICHAEL Woolley, 70, stood for election in 2011 at the district council, after being a city councillor for many years.

He said being a district councillor allowed him to focus on his interest in planning and he sits on the district’s planning committee.

“If you’re prepared to take some initiative and put some work in, you will get a lot out of it,” he said.

However, he admitted some of his time as a councillor had been frustrating.

“It’s not been anything like as satisfying as running a charity,” he said. “You can get things done, but things are very slow.”

He said he was proud of the ‘everyday councillor business’, such as helping out residents in his ward with a problem.