Main Content

Latest diary article - 5.5.2021 - Please vote - hear are your polling stations
My final pre-election Zoom session concluded. Please call with any last minute questions
If elected, further but less frequent sessions will be set up.

Graham Ellis - Am I I am standing for Melksham Town Council!

Links in this page:
What does it take to be a councillor?
What background do I have in the Melksham area?
Would I qualify to stand as a Parish councillor?
The analysis
What is the role of a town councillor?
Why I have I not stood before?
What's my decision?
(Back to top of page)
Some other pages on this site:
Home page and • Launch page
Graham Ellis - background and • views
Graham Ellis - diary and • diary index
Philosophies of working as a town councillor
The Role of the Town Council and Councillors
How YOU can help and • Contact me
Links to other web sites and • pictures
 
An introductory page for Easter 2021; please explore the other pages on this new site too.

After Easter, I will be adding updates on most days (here NOW) - looking at individual topics as they affect Melksham Town, and South Ward in particular

What does it take to be a councillor?

I was looking at a page asking "could you be a local councillor" (and I was not there by accident)

It asked ... Do you have a desire to help and become involved in your community?
Yes - indeed to an extent I am involved already

It asked ... Do you believe in helping others to help themselves?
Yes

It asked ... Do you like a different challenge every day?
Yes - in fact I promised that to Lisa before we got married!

It asked ... Have you ever shouted at the TV and thought you could do better?
Yes - or sort of. Passion for sure, but no point shouting at it!
I know how hard things can be, but HAVE been on TV and done better than the others alongside

It asked ... Are you prepared to stand up and be counted?
Yes - for the right cause, not as lobby fodder

It asked ... Are you self motivated?
Yes - I can be

It asked ... Are you prepared to take part in learning and development opportunities?
Yes - indeed I would far rather be doing that than "same old, same old"

It asked ... Do you have time to spare to meet this significant commitment?
Slightly hesitant Yes - I am newly retired but I find myself with more interesting things I want to do than I have time for.
I am NOT one of those folks who retires and gets bored a week later ...





So - what background do I have in the Melksham area?

My wife and I moved to Melksham in 1999 and bought our current home on Spa Road (in the Melksham South ward) in 2006, running a business (Training centre and guest house) there until recently. We joined the Chamber of Commerce soon after arriving in the town, and I had the honour of serving as president for a number of years. Bringing guests into the town, we have gotten to know what Melksham offers very well, and having people stay with us while they visit friends and relatives has given us a deeper view into what goes on in the area. That knowledge deepened when I was asked to sit on the board planning the new Campus, learning all about the facility needs and desires of the community and looking to balance them and compromise to fit within budget.

I have also learned a great deal about Melksham's rich history and inheritance helping my wife Lisa with her local social history and ancestry interest, including the major remembrance project to commemorate 100 years from the end of World War I.

Since 2005, I have also been involved with gaining and retaining appropriate public transport. Passenger journey numbers have risen 25 fold since I made an initial enquiry to the Office of Rail and Road. Working with established campaigners and volunteers, we now have a service that's useful and used, though there is plenty more to do and we expect it to grow another 4 times over in the next decade.

The rail stuff is all about teamwork, but there are personal touches too. As "Community Rail Officer" for a couple of years, it was a pleasure to meet many passengers and wannabe-passengers, and learn about them and their journeys. A few years back, I won the (National, Sheila McKechnie Foundation) award for the best transport campaigner, and then in 2019 second place right across the UK in the Association of Community Rail Partnerships in their outstanding volunteer category ... a big gala dinner, but the real reward is knowing what I've done lines up with what people feel I should be doing, and learning from them to bring best practice to Melksham.

Not only trains but buses - with a couple of friends in 2016, we encouraged the "biggest response to any consultation" that Wiltshire Council had seen and instead of a 50% or 90% cut in bus subsidy, persuaded them of the sensible case of keeping cuts down to just 10%. Melksham still has its town, Zigzag, Sunday, and Evening bus services though they are in need of some revision (like having them call at the station!). The successful though temporary Melksham Rail Link bus was running at 9,000 journeys a day before it was replaced by an alternative (more car parking) at the station, First's evening buses from Chippenham would take rail tickets and even showed in our rail timetable, and last February our new service case for the Melksham - Bath services turned out to line up with what Wiltshire Council provided, even though previous experience suggested that the evening and Sunday buses were at serious risk of ceasing.



Would I qualify to stand as a Parish councillor

"You must"

* be at least 18 years old
Yes - more than 3 times over

* be a British citizen, an eligible Commonwealth citizen ...
Yes

* meet at least one of the following four qualifications:
a) Your name must appear on the register of local government electors ..
Yes ... so the other three don't matter

"You would disqualified if":

* You are employed by the parish/community council or hold a paid office under the parish/community council ...
No

* You have been declared bankrupt in the last five years and has not repaid your debts.
No

* You have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to at least three months imprisonment ...
no

* You are disqualified due to corrupt practices
no



So - the analysis

I have the reasons to stand
I qualify under the rules
I have a great deal of useful knowledge and experience

I have ruled out standing for one of the Unitary (Wiltshire) council seats. Each of the wards is represented by a single member and significant holes in my recent knowledge and experience means I'm not enough of a generalist to feel comfortable helping people on some topics. That is not to say that other candidates necessarily have that knowledge; some who are already Unitary councillors very clearly, by their utterances, do not. But that's not where I would like to be.

The Town Council ward in which I live will elect four councillors. I am much happier with that idea - it means I can be deeply helpful on topics where I have a strength, and know enough to put people who ask about topics where I lack knowledge in touch with another of their councillors who would be more appropriate.



Now - what is the role of a town councillor?


* Representing your local area
As a local councillor, your residents will expect you to:

respond to their queries and investigate their concerns (casework)
Yes - happy with that

communicate council decisions that affect them
Yes - happy with that

know your patch and be aware of any problems
Yes - happy with that

know and work with representatives of local organisations, interest groups and businesses
Yes - happy with that

represent their views at council meetings
Yes - happy with that

lead local campaigns on their behalf.
Yes - happy with that - though with concerns about taking an active role in a campaign I 'cannot' personally support. Best to honestly suggest a colleague / councillor

* Developing council policy
Councils need clear strategies and policies to enable them to achieve their vision for the area, make the best use of resources and deliver services that meet the needs of local communities. As a local councillor you will contribute to the development of these policies and strategies ...
Yes - happy with that

* Planning and regulation
Councils are not just service providers, they also act as regulators. As a councillor you may be appointed to sit on the planning and regulatory committee, considering issues such as planning applications and licenses ...
Yes - happy with that



So why I have I not stood before?

* Because I've not had much time, and the time I have had has been best used on specialist things
But now I am retired and have a little more time

* Because I don't have the knowledge
But in a multi-member ward, I can refer people on to others in areas outside my ken

* Because I don't have the thick skin needed
Now this is a tough one. I do not mind arguing the logical point, but the way a few people treat councillors - verging on personal attacks - puts off anyone without a thick skin. Ironically, it means we don't get the best and perhaps we sometimes get the wrong people - we get the people who bluster and bully and not the quiet and effective thinkers and do-ers



So - what's my decision?

Yes - going for it. I believe it's the right time, the right place. I've lived in the town for many years, done a great deal behind the scenes with some success (and, it must be admitted, some frustrations). I live in the ward in which I'm standing; I believe I have true local knowledge. I have no employed job or other major elected post so I now have time to help the town forward. I have no party or group affiliation so my council work will be with and for residents and the town as a whole. In practice, 90% will be agreed with others and shared common sense, but let's be able to bring out the difficult questions irrespective of grouping lines.

On 6th May 2021, please vote for Graham Ellis - Independent. Melksham South Ward for Town Council

-

Vote Graham Ellis, 6 May 2021. Town Council, South Ward

Jump to top of page