I always said I wouldn't be the sort of Councillor who only pops up at election times, but would do my best to keep my ward residents informed about goings on in the Hartlepool Council Chamber. Not being in receipt of a "Communications Allowance" like the MP or having the benefit of a weekly column in the Hartlepool Mail like the Mayor (and the MP, again) I have limited opportunities to do this. I try to write fairly regularly to the Hartlepool Mail and Northern Echo Letters Pages and offer both the Mail and the Echo local stories when I can. However, with both these newspapers the Editorial policy decides what they use and what they leave out.
Visiting all areas of the ward as often as I can is also a priority but considering it runs from the Heugh right through to Central Estate and across to Baker's Mead it is difficult to cover it all as often as I would like. The other problem with visits is that you spend two hours talking to three or four people and no mater how often you do that there are always hundreds of others who claim to never see you. However, them’s the breaks!
About the only way I can see to make some contact with all residents is by producing a regular newsletter. I spend over £1,000 a year on printing and distributing my newsletters. That is £1,000 of my own money. There is no Council allowance or public subsidy to produce this newsletter. Probably the fact that you have to put your hand into your own pocket is why very few other Councillors bother with producing one.
This week my Spring 2008 newsletter is being distributed through letterboxes in St.Hilda Ward and so far I have had a reasonable response. Most people, even those who would burn in hell before they would vote for me, seem to appreciate the effort and of course they can have the satisfaction of ripping the newsletter to shreds (maybe after they have read it?). However, one irate resident was sufficiently incensed to e-mail me, (twice, and write to the Hartlepool Mail), about a snippet I put into the newsletter regarding the "YouGov" Opinion Polling Organisation.
I have included a link for people to sign up to the YouGov Panel should they wish to participate in their surveys. This link is a "referral link" as that is what I am doing, referring people to YouGov. YouGov themselves suggest using this link. There is no charge to anyone who uses this link but I do get a credit for anyone who signs up. I think its 50p in vouchers but I'm not sure as I've never actually received a "pay out" as you have to amass £50 in credits before YouGov send you anything.
The lady in question has e-mailed me twice. The second time to tell me she had written to the Mail but wanted to get my comments on the use of a referral link in my newsletter. I look forward to reading her letter, which I noted she said she had already sent! If this is the case then nothing I say to her afterwards is going to make the slightest difference is it!
From her reaction to the use of a referral link I assume it would it be fair to say she must consider the other issues raised in the newsletter to be trivial or unimportant? The loss of democracy, police forums, collapse of the fishing industry, closure of Remploy and the cynical manipulation of the Hartlepool hospital Site must to be insignificant compared to the possibility that I might make 50p (in vouchers I think!) from someone joining the YouGov Panel as a result of my referral.
Ah well, another vote lost. (Or more probably another vote I never had, and now never will!)