Why other people’s councils are more interesting than my own

One of the joys of working at MPC is the opportunity to observe and participate, in District and Parish council meetings around the country. I haven’t been to a dull one yet.

The importance of observing these meetings, particularly planning committees, is self-evident. Getting to know how individual groups of councillors interact, what their priorities and preferences are, is vital to our clients for whom, with some justification, councillors can otherwise appear unreasonable, unpredictable and at times vindictive.

Stakeholder meetings and committee observations are the basics of an essential intelligence gathering exercise. They ensure a client’s application goes forward with a sound knowledge of the audience it needs to impress and it isn’t left to the vagaries of chance or the consequences of poor preparation.

The first planning committees after a local election are often rightly feared – an application due for consideration then may be walking into jeopardy. Planning officers become uncharacteristically bashful, wary of giving a lead that might find them at cross purposes with new members and new pecking orders. New councillors step unknowingly over a line, nominally trained but unaware of the sensible limits they need to place on themselves when exercising their responsibilities.

We assiduously make time to follow the fortunes of councillors in their elections – keeping up with changes that impact directly onto our clients.

Knowing the councillors and how they are likely to react helps present an application in its most favourable light. It allows a final appeal in a committee briefing to be fine-tuned so the benefits of the application aren’t missed and key concerns are addressed.

As a councillor myself, seeing how other council’s work brings the added benefit of reminding me what brought me into politics in the first place. Every week I get to see people from all walks of life, every party and none, living out the truth that one person can make a difference, and everyone should try.

Theo Dennison - Account Manager