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South Kesteven District Council leader reflects on sacrifice of being a councillor

Last Thursday, Grantham elected town councillors for the first time in 50 years, writes South Kesteven District Council leader Ashley Baxter (Ind).

I congratulate all the successful candidates and wish them encouragement and every success in the years to come.

Being a councillor at any level – county, district or parish – is a major commitment and requires sacrifice of time and resources.

South Kesteven District Council leader Ashley Baxter
South Kesteven District Council leader Ashley Baxter

Don’t get me wrong, the role can be very rewarding but it can also cause strain on personal relationships and mental health as councillors try to juggle competing work, family and council commitments in a very public-facing role. If you get frustrated with your councillors, please remember that we are human too!

At the other end of the district last week, I attended a parish meeting in Deeping St James where the annual ‘Making a Difference’ awards were presented by the parish council to the people and organisations who are the beating heart of village life.

One winner was the Deeping Men’s Group who have been meeting the practical needs of medical patients in the Deepings for over 70 years and are still going strong.

In this age of online deliveries, texts and social media, it could be argued that it has never been easier to communicate yet, paradoxically, the opposite is true.

If we don’t visit the supermarket and small shops then we have less chance of bumping into old friends and having a chinwag. If all our communications are via e-mails, and our meetings take place remotely, we have less human connection.

Last month, I learned that Lincolnshire County Council spends over £18 million per year on mental health support for children and young people alone.

I also recently attended a briefing from the county’s director of public health, Derek Ward, who observed that there are three simple things in life that everyone needs in order to maintain good physical and mental health. These are a decent home, a decent job and a decent friend.

South Kesteven District Council has a duty to assist people in finding somewhere to live, and we also have a responsibility to promote a strong economy to support employment; however, it is far more difficult for a council to help people to establish meaningful friendships.

Thank goodness for organisations like MindSpace in Stamford, BHive Community Hub in Grantham, Don’t Lose Hope in Bourne and Age Concern Deepings, who are all at the frontline of promoting positive mental health and helping people to make real friends.

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