THEY are the faces that represent the areas that we live in, they are the decision makers for the borough, they are the problem solvers for their wards, but what do councillors actually do? 

After publishing the attendance figures of councillors earlier this month, the Gazette wanted to get to know the people behind the debates and find out what it really means to be a borough councillor. 

With representatives from all political parties – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats and Independent – we look at the day-to-day life of a councillor, the misconceptions of their role and what makes them proud to represent their wards. 

Even thought the four representatives we spoke to have different political allegiances, one thing they agreed on is that every member of the borough council is hard working for their community. 

Cabinet member for regeneration and property and representative for Burghclere, Highclere and St Mary Bourne, Cllr John Izett said: “When we are in debate we may all have our disagreements on certain issues, but one thing is for certain is that they are all hard working members of their community. 

“What you see in council chambers is just a small part of what everyone does, behind the scenes we are having meetings with officers, answering residents’ queries going from this meeting to that meeting, it is a full-on job.” 

For many councillors, even though they have a political stance, politics is not the main reason they get involved with the borough council. In most cases it is a personal interest that has led to them getting involved. 

For Winklebury ward councillor, Cllr Ruth Cooper, it was the threat of the closure of Fort Hill Community School that pushed her into the role. 

She said: “It was something that was really personal to me, before that I had no real interest in politics, but I wanted to make a difference for the people living in Winklebury, and these seemed like the way to do that.”

As the most recently elected of the group, elected in 2018, Cllr Cooper said once she got stuck in her own preconceptions changed. 

The mother-of-two added: “I had never been to a council meeting before, so it was quite daunting. I learnt very quickly that you can’t just know about your own little neighbourhood, you have to know the whole area.” 

Cllr Cooper was one of the councillors whose attendance was highlighted in this newspaper. Between May and the beginning of October, Cllr Cooper had attended the least amount of meetings going to one since May.  

When outlining an average day, she explained that as well as doing council case work, and visiting residents, she has a full-time job and a young family. At times, she does not finish until 9pm or 10pm.

For Basingstoke Liberal Democrats leader Cllr Gavin James, that being a councillor is like having a “bug”. 

He said: “You always want to do best for your residents, and there are times where you just want to get involved in everything to build up the community.” 

Cllr James said that he quickly became involved in various groups, and when his son’s Beavers group didn’t have chairman. 

Cllr James added that the key thing about being a councillor is getting results for residents. 

Independent councillor for Overton, Laverstoke and Steventon ward member, Cllr Ian Tilbury echoed these views. 

He said: “You become the face of that community and everyone comes to you. 

“When I was first elected in 2002, and my children were a lot younger they would hate me walking them to school because I would keep getting stopped with people asking for me to help them.” 

For Cllr Tilbury, it is being that member of the community people can turn to when they want something done.

When asked what the most common misconception about being a borough councillor is, it’s that people don’t think they have jobs outside the council, or they are doing it for the money. 
Cllr Cooper said: “If you factored in all the meetings with residents, times spent in meetings etc, we would be on less than minimum wage. I certainly don’t do it for the money.” 
Cllr James added: “With the age of social media, you will get messages and if you don’t instantly reply people think you are ignoring them. But in reality, you are busy at work and it can be difficult to juggle everything.”