Reality bites

by Stephen Tall on June 15, 2006

It’s four weeks to the day since I was elected to Oxford City Council’s Lib Dem-run Executive Board as portfolio holder for Better Finances. What do I think of it so far? Bloody knackering.

I’d spent the previous two years chairing the City’s Finance Scrutiny Committee during a minority Labour administration. In a No-Overall-Control council, scrutiny committees can be influential and have to be taken seriously by the Executive – so most of the issues are pretty familiar to me.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the unremitting e-mails needing to be dealt with immediately rather than at the week-end, which is when I used to catch up on paperwork. This hit home last Wednesday, when, at 10.40 pm, I opened a report I needed urgently to approve (or not) , and discovered 41 pages of appendices crammed full of Best Value Performance Indicators with which to familiarise myself.

I’m relieved to be still on top of all my ward case-work (which is of course a very different thing from saying it’s sorted). And I’m grateful my ever-understanding employers have continued to be understanding of my commitments. (Or, perhaps more honestly, ignorant. Until they read this.)

But I’m still reading the same novel I was three weeks ago (and I will add that Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho is not the most relaxing book to wind down with). My plans to learn Spanish before I visit Cadiz in August have taken a back seat. I have also missed both England’s World Cup matches owing to meetings: at work last Saturday, and in Council tonight.

I remarked on some of this to a colleague yesterday. He said – and I think he meant it consolingly – “Still, at least you’re single so have the time.” Cause and effect, was my polite reply (rather than, are you taking the piss?).

Of course, if anyone’s thinking of getting more involved in local politics, standing for Council, and one day holding an executive position – I wouldn’t want any of the above to discourage you. Perish the thought.

PS: I promise to allow myself only one such whiny post a year.