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Alumni Stories - Councillor Phillip Howells

I’ve come a long way since doing my MBA in the 90s and now, at 73, a Town and Herefordshire Ward Councillor for Ledbury as well as being the Mayor of Ledbury. One consequence of the pandemic is legislation to cancel all elections this year until next, so all those due to be elected automatically carry on for another year.

However. Parish Council Mayors can stay in place or Councils can if they wish to elect another, later in the year when we have meetings again. That is all going to be different too – legislation now in place to allow us to have online meetings which by law we have had to have in public and open to the public. We have had lots of Zoom meetings already - like everyone else! – but setting them up to allow voting, all to join in and speak and the public to take part will take a few pilot calls (like the Parliament today when they voted on which season was their favourite to test the online voting system!).

As a Councillor I am busier than ever. Not only with (both) council business and obviously providing as much community support and involvement as possible (although I am in the ‘vulnerable’ age group of course which complicates things; I am very fit, still run marathons, but this virus is clearly very dangerous for all, especially the older ones of us). One early and sad task in this pandemic was helping to write and coordinate a tribute article for one of our prominent citizens active in many of our community organisations but was sadly an early COVID-19 victim at the age of 66.

A complication was that the local paper journalist who fully knows the town and its people well, is on furlough, so the reporter ‘on duty’ at Worcester News who is covering several previous jobs, does not know Ledbury, so needs a lot of help with getting local story information. Another similar project involving me was helping to promote contributions from the Ledbury community to a brilliant idea of local historian Jennifer Harrison - ‘The Ledbury Archive 2020’ to form a historical record of how Ledbury people lived and survived during the pandemic.

Ledbury Town Council is also a ‘Rule 6’ party to a major developer appealing against being refused planning permission and I am on the working party putting our inquiry case together – very specialised and complex for which we have engaged a Barrister and several specialist witnesses at a substantial local ratepayer cost, but for which we have overwhelming local democratic support. I also chair our Neighbourhood Development Plan working party.

Life is challenging and tiring, but very full and stimulating to be doing things in a number of areas that make a real difference to our community.

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