Making Volunteerism Work
Cllr. Wayne G. Mills
I wouldn’t have counted myself as an activist, or even politically motivated, but just a compassionate guy who cares deeply for the rights of people, to have a say in their lives and local community. Until recently that is! On May 7th 2015, upon my election to becoming a Councillor, that fuzzy warmth of reasoning led me into my first experience of local politics at the age of 49.
In Earls Barton Parish Council we are 13 in number, with a sizeable precept for one of the largest villages in the UK. Locally the 3 Borough Councillors are Conservative, and we have a Conservative County Councillor who is very new – shall we say. My own career in the Building Industry allowed me to sit comfortably on the Planning, Highways and Maintenance committees and enjoy running many events locally as well.
My first year or so in office was largely about local issues, until we had a game changer – Northamptonshire County Council is basically bust – in November last year we were faced with the devastating effect of an overspend of £21.1m.
We were told that the council were looking to save £34.3m as well as considering even selling off its newly built £53m headquarters. Earlier this month it imposed the section 114 notice banning all new expenditure apart from statutory services in social care.
One local effect is that our Library service is up for closure. Not a big deal to some in the e-books era but a very big deal to a community that has never been told NO before and view it more as a community hub building rather than just a book lending service.
At this point passions were running high and I suddenly felt empowered! I could feel my libertarian views taking shape amongst the haymaking of the socialists locally. The Tories just kept quiet and blamed Central Government for its funding deficit rather than admit to the crass mismanagement that we have witnessed for years.
I attended a meeting at the County Council and rather dramatically demanded a Community Asset Transfer of the Library. The asset had been owned by our community long before it had been dragged under Local Authority control. However, when my demand was reported back to our chamber in the village Labour highjacked the idea on social media pretending it was their brainchild. At that point the gloves were off, and I became a Libertarian Councillor for the Libertarian Party.
The bottom line is that in the community we can cover the Library running costs at a cost of £5 on band D Council Tax until it becomes sustainable. That’s just further taxation I hear you cry, but the Library then must change its focus to become a free market venture to survive and be self-sufficient in the long term.
Taking over these Local Authority assets allows us to consider together how resources might be developed in a way that could be sustainable in community hands and is stimulating creative ideas about where services are based and how they are delivered. The need for a business plan and financial management objectives will help us shape the building usage more.
The realisation locally is that The County Council will no longer be a service provider but more an essential service financier. This is where the Libertarian bit comes in.
Suddenly locally we are seeing Voluntary Associations popping up. We have an “Is Kind” group I assist managing and I run an associated man only support group too. We have over 1000 people as members in less than 6 months and it is like giving an Apache a Winchester once people realise they have some freedom, and it is honestly great to witness.
We offer elderly and lonely befriending services in conjunction with the NHS; a village food bank and a hot meal service; a free swapping service for all household goods and clothing; and even groups of men helping the vulnerable victims of domestic violence with furniture for wrecked homes. Social events and volunteering are flourishing and I am proud the community are seeing they have more freedom of choice away from the thought process that ‘it’s what the council should provide’. All of this involves no tin rattling but just kindness, humanity and no monetary donations.
The constitution of the groups include the wording:
To respect the personal integrity of those we help. Never to judge or moralise over anyone’s problems or situations. All individuals must respect the equal rights of others.
To actively promote localism and volunteering to establish greater local public freedom without political and religious influence.
Respect the equal rights of others and protect these individually held rights from abuse by others.
We have a long road to travel but with energy and commitment we will help shape a better future locally. Without mentioning my political leanings I am helping to shape a community along the road to greater freedom and liberty. Now all I must do is get enough support to launch my career to challenge the establishment further up the pyramid as a Libertarian.
If we are to progress our passions locally we must reach into the hearts as well as the minds of our constituents and sell a creative vision for everyone. We must stress that less government doesn’t mean caring any less.
#Midlands #volunteering #Northamptonshire #Mercia #WayneGMills #Newsletter