Cllr Garry Purdy is the Leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council
In the early 1970s, I was the regular Police Officer (Beat Bobby) for Masson Ward in Derbyshire Dales which covered the villages of Bonsall, Cromford, Matlock Bath, High Peak Junction, and Willerlsey.
Little did I know at that time, that in December 2007 I would return as a district councillor in a by-election.
How times have changed, and not for the better.
It used to be said that we get the kind of Police Service that society deserves.
I guess that can be said for many walks of life, including councillors and MPs.
My key message here is that we had strong discipline in those days – and evidence of a lack of discipline is what brought Boris Johnson to have to resign.
Our district council faces elections in May 2023 and I fear for a number of reasons that we Conservatives will lose control after many years.
The face of politics from the norm of Conservatives versus Labour has changed over the past couple of decades, especially since the Theresa May snap Election of 2017 which resulted in epic failure, as headlined by the tabloids.
Since 2017, we have witnessed a significant rise in independent councillors from 1,572 in 2017 to 2,294 in 2020.
A number of reasons have been put forward for this. One has been the high number of new build properties being developed throughout the country that many objected to, which changed the rural landscape. And people disenfranchised by distrust of the two major parties.
There was much uncertainty after the 2017 election with Brexit splitting the country in two, and which added to the deep distrust of certain politicians.
Despite the landslide victory of Johnson in 2019, I feel that we are still in very uncertain times, especially given the fact that there is no real strong opposition.
The pandemic had a seismic effect upon society, not only due to the huge number of deaths suffering Covid, but it also had a massive psychological impact on all of society which I suggest we are still trying to come to terms with.
One positive out of the pandemic was the pulling together in society by people volunteering throughout the country, but especially frontline staff such as nurses and the emergency services who toiled under what can only be described as dangerous conditions in dealing with Covid.
I include local authority staff in this regard who whilst they were not on the front line, worked beyond the call of duty in supporting businesses and their communities.
Despite any good done by any individual or organisation, and including Government, our press is only interested in reporting the bad and the ugly.
And there has been more than enough of the bad and ugly this past few years.
Conservative councillors have already suffered in local elections as a result of the so-called partygate scandal and I doubt very much that people will forget what took place, especially those that lost loved ones.
I can only hope that our constituents can differentiate between the happenings in Parliament as against their local hard-working councillors.
It is important therefore to spread the message on what has been achieved at a local level – and this means a lot of hard work by councillors before next May.
Government Ministers acknowledged that without district and borough councillors, the vaccine programme would not have been as successful as it was. Councillors were “the boots on the ground’. They were the local element close to their communities and helping to deliver Government strategy and policy.
And if there was not enough uncertainty, the very existence of the two tier form of Governance in Derbyshire, with the county council and a total of eight district and borough councils, is under threat with the possible formation of an East Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority.
The White Paper on Devolution means that the only game in town is a Mayor with all the powers and significant amounts of monies in comparison to what is received now.
The East Midlands misses out on billions of pounds worth of income and investment from Government when compared to the West Midlands Combined Authority under Mayor Andy Street.
The real uncertainty though, lies with the district and borough councils who have no power of veto in the White Paper and therefore no guaranteed seat on the Mayoral Governance Board.
As Leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council, I am fighting as hard as I can with the other district and borough leaders and chief executives in order to ensure our voice is at the table and heard.
The sooner we see the devolution detail being provided to the Leaders of Derby City, Derbyshire County Council, Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire County Council by Government, the better for clearing up all of this uncertainty.