On being a councillor…

I am truly proud to represent Yatton ward as one of its two district councillors, but I’m going to be very honest with you: right now, it is hard.

I am not a professional politician and I am truly independent. I am passionate about making a positive difference and while I have a thick skin, criticism I feel is unjustified still hurts. I have a supportive family but they are hurting, too. They know how hard I work for individual residents and for the community.

I was elected with a mandate to “get serious about making our villages safer places to walk and cycle around”. I also campaigned for the return of an accessible and reliable bus service to Clevedon.

As it happens, just before 8 o’clock this morning I eagerly hopped onto the first Route 54 service that left Yatton for Clevedon. I was the only passenger on the bus all the way to Clevedon. Today it feels like I am being judged on something I haven’t done (closed the moor roads), rather than something I have done – helped to deliver a new bus service.

North Somerset Council has received ring-fenced funding from the Government to bring forward “transformational” active travel schemes for new safe routes for people to walk and cycle safely. Council officers briefed councillors on some possible measures we might want to consider. There was enough data and interest for us to collectively give officers the nod to work up some ideas we might then ask residents to comment on.

The publication of a rather procedural and technical Traffic Regulation Order earlier this week – without context or any detail at all on what a possible scheme might look like – started hares running. I perfectly understand some of the reaction.

Regrettably, Facebook just does not allow for nuanced argument and civilised discussion. It very quickly becomes about ‘absolutes’ and toxic – and perhaps because I ‘work-out-loud’ and am visible (unlike others) – it leads to personal attacks. One asked “what does our councillor actually do?” Others suggested I “do not represent Yatton”, I’m “acting like God”, that people “should knock on my door”… “bye bye, Steve”; and worse.

So, yesterday – in real time – I witnessed any hopeful promise of some measure of change seemingly snuffed out.

For simply entertaining the idea of change, it feels like I’ve been thrown under the bus.

Some residents have emailed me directly – both for and against – even though no actual scheme has been presented for comment. All these emails (bar one) have been courteous and well argued. I welcome this kind of engagement and challenge. Good things often come from this. When compared to Facebook, the difference in tone is marked. Challenge, yes… abuse, no.

In a day or two I will dust off my scuffed knees. I pledge to carry on working hard for our community for as long as I have the support of residents.

12 comments on “On being a councillor…

  1. Dave Chmielewski

    To be honest, I stay away from comments on FB. But everything that I have seen from you has been positive and in the best interests of the whole community. I have been a resident of Yatton since 2012 and I have watched you fight for so much over the years and what you have achieved has been brilliant. Getting a bus route back through Yatton to Clevedon is a testament to how hard you work. Thank you so much for everything you have done for Yatton and everything you are continuing to do.

    • Steve from what I have witnessed over the last 18 months or so I have been connected to the Yatton FB page, I too have had some pretty cutting things said about some of my comments and I genuianly only had the local public in mind when I made some comments about litter and other issues. So I know how hurtful it must be when you are engaged so much as you are, trying to make a difference. I can see that the way it’s been presented is an issue with the proposed closure if some roads to vehicles and can’t agree with it, however personal attacks are made by those who obviously have no respect for others and should be ignored – I believe you are making a difference and hope you bounce back after the weekend. Take my advice and switch off for the Easter break and don’t look at the FB page. Keep the good work up Steve and try and ignore the ‘knickers’

  2. Andrew Boyle

    I applaud your efforts to date Steve, on being an accessible and hard working Councillor, but this is not some sort of consultation as we understand it. It is, quote: “Notice of Intent. Notice is hereby given that North Somerset District Council proposes to make an order under sections 1(1), 2(1), to (3) and 4(1) of and Part IV of Schedule 9 to the Road Traffic Act 1984 as amended.
    The effect of the order is to implement a prohibition of motor vehicles ( with exemptions) on the network of lanes between Clevedon, Yatton, Nailsea, Claverham and Backwell.” This appears to be a done deal from the language used, together with a paltry month to make any “observations” prior to implementation. Local liaison seems to have gone out of the window, and maybe it seems to be an appaling communications issue by the Council, but we are not having it. I am a local cyclist who cycled these roads today and will again tomorrow, and who is quite happy with them as they are. Why not put money towards linking the strawberry line to the national Coast path, that would really help us committed cyclists! All the best, and sorry to hear you have been subject to personal abuse.

  3. Chris Lewis

    I totally agree that you have worked hard for Yatton Steve, and appreciate everything you have achieved so far
    I think people need to remember that
    As far as this proposal is concerned I am totally at a loss to imagine what this will do to our already struggling high street.
    I will be watching carefully for publications on this, and hope fervently that this proposal is NOT adopted

  4. Julia Wallis

    That’s a Brilliant result Steve, well done and thank you for your hard work in getting the bus service back through the village!
    You pledged to be transparent, proactive and approachable throughout to work with our community for our community and you have delivered, plus more! thank you! I am sure most of the community are very appreciative and grateful to you, I certainly am, you are a huge asset to the Yatton Ward!

  5. Steve Hogg

    Steve – it’s heartening to see some of these comments here because I agree that you’re a terrific councillor and Yatton are very lucky to have you. As a fellow district councillor I have tremendous respect for you because I also know just how hard it is to deliver anything *at all* in these straightened times.

    I agree that debate and discussion and the exchanging of views are the lifeblood of what we do. The views of our communities help us to set direction, but many of the comments I’ve seen are just galling and bear no resemblance at all to the person I know. It’s enough to put anyone off politics forever.

    Have a great Easter break (Netflix!) with the family, and see you on a zoom call very soon!

  6. Robert Esler

    Thank you for the above . I would like to hear your own thoughts. I am always sceptical about reviews all sent on the same day and possibly selected by you for inclusion!
    I personally am waiting to be persuaded that the idea is a good one. Your above offers little to persuade me.
    It reads as though you are trying to get out of a hole, are the buses going use the moor roads, I think not.
    Rather than shutting down, persuade me otherwise. Being silent is useless. I am not persuaded , you have an opportunity use it!
    Otherwise I will not be changing my mind that this is a very poor idea. Why should I be persuaded by supporting mainly cyclists from Bristol? Are you supporting the views of the community that voted for you?
    Richard Esler

  7. Norma Parfitt

    Abuse is , unfortunately, fashionable. Imitate a duck and let it roll right off you.

    You work hard for changes in Yatton, but only some people will be grateful.
    I’m happy about the bus. I’m not sure about travel scheme yet.

  8. Libby Watts

    Steve, I voted for you and I do not regret it. I have not seen any of the comments but I can only guess that they are on a certain Facebook community site, which personally I find to be a toxic atmosphere, absolutely full of bullying and rudeness so I left some time ago. Those people do not represent Yatton and most do not even want to make Yatton a better place to live.
    Personally I welcome any proposals for car free journeys, but I worry about the increase in traffic it would bring to Yatton high street. If we had better public transport I would welcome an alternative to using the car. I’m glad you got some constructive debate on this issue, and I’m sorry that some people, hiding behind their keyboards, feel the need to resort to bullying tactics.
    Appreciate its not easy but perhaps an Easter weekend free from social media….
    Thank you for everything you do.

  9. Elizabeth McInerney

    Steve thank you so much for all the work you do. To get the Clevedon /Yatton bus service is a major achievement, congratulations and well done for all the effort you have put in. There will always be differing opinions of course, it is shocking to me that these can become a form of abuse towards you personally. The idea of debate is to exchange thoughts not bully someone into thinking the way you want them to. It must be hard to ignore, but what you do is appreciated by most people who have only admiration and thanks for your efforts. Putting yourself out there is not easy but how grateful we are that some people are prepared to do it on our behalf.

  10. Karin Haverson

    Steve, as a fellow councillor, I just wanted to say how much I respect you and your hard work. Achieving a new bus service is a just reward for your and Richard’s efforts, I hope you enjoyed your bus trip! I am equally happy because we have achieved a new bus service for my area, too, there will now be a bus service between Langford and Weston, via Winscombe.
    Our recent consultation has shown how concerned we all are about climate change, and the pandemic has shown the desire for more safe cycling. Not just for fun, but also to get from A to B in a healthier and more sustainable way. If we are serous about this and making cycling safer, we have to come up with some innovative solution. Turning some of our little back roads into routes which are safer for cyclists and less inviting for cars seems at least worth a try. In this country, 2% of all trips are made by bike, in Holland it is 30%. I do not believe that UK citizens are lazier than the Dutch, it is well known that the biggest disincentive to cycling is not laziness, but the fear of traffic, so we have a long way to go.

  11. Chris Holloway

    We are proud of you. Stay positive

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