Tom Davies and Geoff Fazackarley: Why the Conservative Councillors Association needs new leadership

9 Feb

Cllr Tom Davies and Cllr Geoff Fazackarley are councillors in Fareham

Councillors are the backbone of the Conservative Party, yet our views aren’t always well represented by the party. We need to change that. That’s why we are standing for the Conservative Councillors Association on a joint ticket – Tom for Chairman, Geoff for Deputy Chairman.

Many of you probably haven’t even heard of the CCA, and that’s essentially the problem. It’s a little known association with a low level of influence given the size of its membership.

We think it’s really important that a new CCA Chairman & Deputy come in to ensure the views of our councillors are properly voiced and heard. At the moment so many councillors either don’t think the CCA helps them or don’t know what it does at all.

The fact is, the party with the most councillors at a General Election almost always wins. Yet despite having some of the best experience and knowledge, our members don’t always feel like we’re listened to. Because of our importance to the Party I think it’s right that we request further resourcing to help us achieve more.

Tom won his seat off the Liberal Democrats (who had held it for 18 years), with a 13.2 per cent swing. That was after spending many days reading campaigning books, marketing books, and finding out what works. We want to use this knowledge to further complement the CCA guides, grants, and schemes.

Expanding the various schemes the CCA offers so that all councillors and candidates feel like they can win or retain their seat is vital. For you, for us as an association, and for the Party as a whole. Everyone associated with the Party benefits.

We will be pushing hard for additional funding from Central Office to ensure that our candidates do receive the funding required to run a strong campaign and to make certain that Labour never have more councillors than we do ever again. This then safeguards the Party position nationally as the natural party of government.

Tom was lucky enough to benefit from a CCA grant when campaigning. They can be immensely useful to any candidate in a target seat and I will prioritise more support and assistance for existing councillors and new candidates. We wrote to Party Chairmen, Amanda Milling and Ben Elliot, and we’re delighted that CCA and CCHQ have announced a lockdown campaign scheme, just as we asked for.

We are extremely pleased that we managed to make this happen. Since our campaign started there’s been a big increase in CCA activity, so we strongly feel like we’re pushing the CCA hard to do more and be better for our members.

Our entire platform is based on giving councillors a voice, and we promise to canvass them all on every key issue and make sure that their consensus is heard. We will be running monthly surveys on key local issues and we’ll be writing to the Local Government Minister and Party Chairmen to let them know what we think.

We ran a two week long survey, because in order to run a councillor driven campaign we had to know what councillors thought, and we needed enough responses to make it truly representative. The survey response we’ve had has been stunning. We both thought the CCA had problems – that’s why we wanted to stand in the first place – but the level to which there’s a problem both within the CCA, and on wider level about how our councillors feel, is beyond what we imagined.

We want to make it clear that we believe the CCA has amazing potential to be exactly what our members want it to be; an association that listens, that handles our concerns, provides support and that ultimately helps us to hold on to our seats and win new ones.

Of over three hundred councillors polled; this is what they told us:

  • 54.7 per cent do not feel supported by the CCA
  • 58.5 per cent do not feel they have enough mental health support
  • 78.4 per cent do not feel like their voice is heard within the party when they have a grievance
  • 21.6 per cent feel the CCA is useful at election time
  • 22.8 per cent feel the CCA is value for money
  • 70.1 per cent have no idea who their CCA Chairman is
  • 83.0 per cent want the CCA to be more active and supportive at election time
  • 12.2 per cent feel like the CCA is achieving its most important functions.

As councillors we have a duty to serve, and we do so with great humility – for many of us becoming a councillor has been one of the greatest accomplishments of our lives. While the majority of residents reciprocate the kindness we show them, it’s sad that more and more people do not treat others in a respectable manner. Such is the social media age that sadly many of us now have had to deal with harassment and aggression from a minority of residents, especially online.

This has been a tough year for everyone and the demands of residents have increased for many councillors. So, as well as dealing with a less than pleasant atmosphere at times, our councillors have to contend with increased stress levels.

The Party needs to investigate, and councillors need more support and better, more timely, responses from the CCHQ Complaints Department when issues are raised.

We set out on this campaign with the key pledge to turn the CCA into an election winning machine. We didn’t think the CCA was getting its message through or being effective enough. It’s clear our members feel strongly the same way.

The problem the CCA has, we feel, and from what the survey says, is twofold. Firstly, the CCA is under-resourced, meaning that while it has some fantastic staff and good intentions, it’s simply unable to fulfil its potential at this time.

The second is that members felt what support was there was poorly targeted and difficult to access, or was not convenient to them. We need to tell councillors why it’s important they have a Facebook page, why it’s important to collect voter data, why it’s important to sign people up for postal votes – it’s not enough to say here’s a webinar that tells you how; the CCA needs to take members with it and help them through the process from start to finish.

Please find out more here.