Volunteers are backbone of our communities
Councillor Clive Bennett reflects on a busy year as chairman of Cotswold District CouncilForty years ago as a young(ish) journalist, I covered the very first meeting of the new Cotswold District Council which saw councillors from all parts of the district coming together for the first time as a new authority under the 1974 Local Government Act.
As I struggled to put names to the new and different faces, the furthest thing from my mind was the thought that I should ever be a councillor, far less that I would follow in the footsteps of the new chairman, Cllr Dennis Leadbeater. Yet in May 2014, 40 years on almost to the day, the hands of fellow councillors went up and I was having the chain of office placed on my shoulders.
I have been a member of the district council since 2003 and have served two three-year terms as licensing committee chairman, three years on cabinet and two years as vice-chairman. Even with all that experience, it was still daunting to realise that I was now the civic figure head of the Cotswold District Council. Within days I discovered that my already busy diary was going to get busier. In rapid succession came invitations to mayor makings, civic dinners and Royal garden parties, opening this and dedicating that.
So far I have managed to fit in most of the invitations and travelled to many parts of the district and met so many people who give up their time to make things happen. These volunteers are the backbone of our communities and I feel humble when I see the efforts they put in to make life just that little bit better for all.
As an ex-serviceman, the fact that in 2014 the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War was remembered in so many different ways by the old and young gave me great satisfaction. The anniversary events brought home to people that the names on war memorials were real people who lived and worked in our communities and many families have direct links to those young men who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
As chairman I get to meet the mayors and chairman of neighbouring authorities at civic functions and these are great forums for giving and getting ideas which may benefit the Cotswolds. I suppose after many years as a reporter I know the right questions to ask. The message I get back is that Cotswold District Council seems to be doing a good job. Long may that message continue.
There is a message I would like to send out and that is that if any organisation wants the chairman to attend a function then please contact the council. The small events give me a lot of pleasure. I was at a small school and a little boy turned to me and said: “I like your necklace”. Has the chairman’s chain of office ever been referred to in such a way before? It made me smile.