Town Hall Talk

Published: 02 April 2021


My name is Tina Foster and I am a Town Councillor.

This may sound like a confession and in fact, in some ways, it is an admission of culpability. I did know what I was doing when I put my name forward to be elected on to Swanage Town Council but there was a good chance I would not be in the top 12 candidates to take a seat on the Council. Reader, I was wrong; I am now a Town Councillor.

In 2019 local government elections were held and many parish and town councils did not have enough nominees to require an election. This is a great shame. While most parishioners do not understand the workings of their local government, many are quick to accuse the “Council” for any shortcomings. It is important that we educate the public and electors in the value of having some involvement in the running of a parish.

My political career started in the 1980s when as the village postmistress, I felt it useful to sit on the Studland Parish Council. It was interesting, and in a small way we were able to influence village events and the building of affordable homes for local people.

Moving to Swanage in 1990 and then to Spain in 2002, I ceased to be an instrument of the State and it was not until my return to Swanage and retirement in 2018 that I was “persuaded” to put my name forward again.

Now 2 years into my tenure and following a brief stint as Parish Clerk at Studland, my eyes have been well and truly opened. Times have changed and it is a far more responsible task to have your name preceded by the title “Councillor”.

I had trained my Granddaughters to always address me as “lovely Grandma” but on my election the elder one asked if they were now had to call me “Councillor Grandma.”

So now down to business. Lots of committees to sit on and numerous working parties to be involved with, as well as the almost monthly meetings. And so much to learn! I am grateful to the DAPTC for the opportunities to attend training sessions. It is interesting to have some experience of both sides of the chamber as a Clerk and then a Councillor. And we all need ongoing instruction in the intricacies of the implementation of the ever-changing Government rulings. At one recent course the instructor thought it would be helpful if we had a Master’s degree in Planning.

And now we are in Zoom land and for me this makes the job harder. We are forced to discuss serious considerations with no access to body language and pre and after chats. The recent Jackie Weaver and Handforth debacle may have amused many but has cast aspersions of the very important role of parish councils. And more worryingly I have noticed how many of us lady councillors have the same lockdown hair style as the inimitable Jackie; me especially.

Despite the sometimes, onerous serious duties I have accepted, I can honestly report that this is a rewarding and fascinating job and has been the saving of my sanity in the last year of Covid restrictions. I have met eleven other sincerely good and committed councillors as well as a Town Hall full of hardworking and courteous officers and their staff. We have enjoyed laughter, sadness and sometimes, conflict, but have treated each other with respect and appreciation. If there is to be a collective noun for such a group perhaps it should be veneration of councillors.

Enough now but will keep you up to date with the exciting happenings of my Council as we career towards a summer of a released population who cannot fly to the sunny beaches of the world and will have to make do with the beautiful seaside delights of Dorset.