Wednesday 12 August 2009

Surgical operations

It’s been nearly two years since I first started my Councillor’s surgeries, so I’ve taken some time over recess to think about times and venues.

If you’ve never been to a surgery, it’s all pretty simple*. I book a room in a hall, a school or library at a set time every month, and you can come and see me to talk about your problems or ideas for the local area. I’ve stuck some photos up from a couple of the venues – there’s always a chair and a listening ear waiting for you!

A lot people tend to get in touch with me directly, by phone or email, and I pick up a lot of cases while I’m out and about. I still think surgeries are important to do though – unlike MPs and MSPs, Councillors expenses don’t run to providing a local office, so surgeries are the best alternative to ensuring the public can find us when they need us. If no-one arrives, I get some quiet time to work on committee papers or chat to the janitor or staff (great sources of news!).

Some locations are better attended than others, yet there’s no rhyme or reason to when they’re busy. People have come to see me in the pouring rain, and stayed away on sunny evenings. Some I’ve promoted quite a lot, but still seem quite quiet. I think I’ve managed to achieve a good geographical spread within the constituency, in walking distance for most people.

I do eight surgeries a month, which is more than the average. Details of all the surgeries held by Councillors in Glasgow can be found on the Council website or in the back pages of the Glasgow Magazine. I don’t see it as a big time commitment though – eight hours in a month is pretty reasonable.

The main reason for reviewing surgery times and places has been my Calton surgery, which was previously held in St James’ Primary, which Labour voted to close. There are no other public buildings in the Calton – which was of course part of the problem with this particular closure. I have arranged to use a room in St Luke’s and St Andrew’s church on Bain Street, which I hope will be convenient for most people in the area.

I’m also moving three of my morning surgeries at Reidvale, Dalmarnock and Helenslea to Thursday rather than Tuesday. Bridgeton Library will continue to be on a Tuesday, as the Library opens later on a Thursday. Some of my colleagues have surgeries on Mondays and Fridays, but I was concerned that these are often subject to cancellation due to the closure of buildings on bank holidays.

The full list has been updated on the side bar and the Council

website. I’m always up for trying out new venues or ideas to communicate with my constituents – if you have suggestions please let me know!

* These kind of surgeries don’t involve any medical procedures – a friend of mine was quite concerned when I said I was going out for my surgery!


William said...


I'm aware of your surgery in my area but I've never attended - nor John Mason's in ASDA cafe!

Would it be against data protection rules for you to give an idea about the kind of things people come to speak to you about? I think sometimes people are unsure about who to go to for a particular problem or complaint - MP, MSP or councillor. If people had a clearer idea about areas of responsibility or interest then you might find more turning up for surgeries.

BellgroveBelle said...

William, thanks for your comment. A great deal of the cases which come to me are housing, with other complaints about council services like refuse collection, litter, and roads coming in second. Planning and licensing issues also come up regularly.

In my experience, there's a lot of crossover in what elected representatives at different levels will deal with. We wouldn't normally turn anyone away - if I can't deal with something, I'm happy to recommend a colleague as appropriate.

I mostly deal with services provided by the Council, very much the local level of things. Glasgow City Council is a large beast, and provides a lot to many people.

MSPs may deal with these issues too, but are better placed to deal with matters devolved to the Scottish Parliament - health, justice, and wider strategic issues.

MPs are well placed to deal with immigration, benefits, defence.

I hope that answers your question - and feel free to come and see me!