Councillor column: working with residents to achieve some wins

Mill Hill councillor Val Duschinsky on committees, casework and making real change

Councillor Val Duschinsky a Conservative councillor for Mill Hill Ward in the London Borough of Barnet
Cllr Val Duschinsky – Conservative, Mill Hill

I’m often asked: – what does a councillor actually do? and I suppose there are three main parts.

The first is to attend council meetings in the Town Hall for example, I am on the Strategic Planning Committee and also the North Area Committee – where we are able to support local initiatives with small grants – which is a very worthwhile committee to serve on. 

The second part of the work is casework. We do realise it can be challenging dealing with a large organisation like the council, so it’s important for residents to know that there’s a real person they can go to when they need help or advice.

There is often a constant stream of emails and phone calls from residents needing help on the widest possible variety of issues to do with the council – everything from bins not being emptied, to housing or planning issues, reporting fly-tipping, and raising many others. concerns.

This can be a very time-consuming part of the work as sometimes things have to be filtered through different council departments and may need some follow-up until you can declare these issues as ‘casework actioned’ finally. 

The third part of the work could really just be called ‘community‘ –  and this covers councillors’ involvement with all of the local community, faith and residents’ associations and also attending site meetings with highways or planners within the ward to see if we can solve problems or issues which have been raised with us.

Perhaps this community aspect is the most important part of the work because, if you’re not part of the community, it’s hard to keep completely in touch with what’s going on and what residents are thinking and feeling. It’s also one of the most rewarding parts because you can sometimes make real change.

Mill Hill is a very interesting ward in some ways – very close to the greenbelt and we have many involved, interested and concerned residents who are willing to share their views and keen to protect the very special rural nature of Mill Hill.

Change is difficult and we’ve experienced that on the Ridgeway, a rural lane along the top of the Totteridge Valley which was once occupied almost solely by religious and school foundations. As times have changed, and these organisations have moved away, we’ve had to deal with developments which have not always been welcomed.

But we’ve managed to achieve some wins as well. Working with residents to prevent the original plans for the Pentavia development from working, with our MP to push for the £8 million funding to provide step-free access at Mill Hill Broadway, supporting the creation of the new memorial woodland in Mill Hill Park, and finding funding for evergreen trees to be planted in Mill Hill Broadway to help improve air quality. 

There are challenges ahead and much still to be achieved, but Mill Hill councillors are privileged to have so many supportive organisations and individuals who are passionately committed to ensuring that the many wonderful facilities and assets are protected and that Mill Hill can continue to flourish. 

Val Duschinsky is one of 3 councillors representing Mill Hill ward, along with Laithe Jajeh and Elliot Simberg (also Conservative).

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