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Dragon Interview: Cllr Pauline Searle – Retiring County Councillor

Published on: 3 May, 2017
Updated on: 6 May, 2017

Tomorrow a new county councillor will be elected for the Guildford North division – so it was time to interview the retiring Liberal Democrat county councillor Pauline Searle. Questions posed by Martin Giles.

Cllr Pauline Searle

What made you volunteer to be a county councillor?

I became a county councillor in 2005 because it felt for me that it was a natural extension to my role as a borough councillor.

I have always tried  to be completely involved in all aspects and service of the council be it borough or county that has an effect on my residents. I have always been interests in children and the service and felt I would like to learn more and be involved in supporting these vital areas.

I also had an understanding of and interest in the Stoke part of Guildford North as my parents lived in Bellfields happily for 34 years.

What had you done up to that point?

Before I became a borough councillor in 1999 and then a county councillor I was a mother of three. I was also a childminder for 25 years and in that time I looked after 52 children. With my childminding group I ran a Summer Holiday Play scheme  at Shepherds Hill nursery School for 14 years, hence the interest in children’s welfare.

What has made you decide to retire?

I have not really retired as I am still a borough councillor.

Like a great many grandparents today, we help to provide child care for our grandchildren. At the moment I am very lucky to be able to spend time with our two younger grandchildren aged 11 months and nearly four. Both parents are nurses so the day is long.

Most county council meetings are at County Hall in Kingston during the day and I was finding it difficult to juggle everything.

I will not do something unless I can commit wholeheartedly.

What will you miss most about being a county councillor?

The main thing is losing my involvement in the community of Stoke.

I have meet some great people over 12 years , and have been actively involved with all in the Residents Associations of Bellfields and Weyfield, St Peter’s Church, Christ College, where I was a governor for 10 years, Weyfield School, Stoke Scouts, the Children’s Centre and the many local groups. Stoke is a wonderful and diverse community and I will miss being part of it.

I will also miss not being able to help with funding for local projects and groups that really make a difference to my division. This funding is available through Surrey County Council Local Committee members allocation allowance. It has been a real boost for getting things like a new pathway, notice boards, and funding local events and groups.

I have enjoyed all the committees and boards I have served on. This is where you learn about the running of the county council and find out about the issues facing the service that all our residents need and rely on. These committees and boards are not political, everyone there has an interested and wants the best outcomes for the residents of Surrey.

Pauline Searle visiting Weyfield Primary Academy

And what won’t you miss?

I will certainly not miss full county council meetings. I feel they are mostly hot air and used by the ruling party to tell us how wonderful they are.

You are a borough councillor and a county councillor. Which do you prefer being and why?

I have always preferred being a borough councillor because I feel more connected to Guildford. Over the years I have built up a good relationship with the officers from the different services. I know most of them and I feel I can and do pop in and see them or call them on the phone and they will help in any way they can. I feel even as a backbencher that I am involved and can make a difference.

At the county council you feel more removed, less involved. Unless you are a lead member you only go to County Hall when you have a meeting.

Do you think that our local democracy is healthy?

Yes, I feel  there is certainly more interest from residents in how the council is run and the decision that are made. Maybe it is only on certain issues in which they have an interest. They should have their questions answered so they can better understand how the council works. We the councillors are accountable. That is why residents should use their votes.

What is the biggest challenge currently facing Surrey County Council?

Cuts in funding from central government, while the county council is expected to provide more services.

The biggest worry is the gap in funding for social care. This is the service that provides for our most vulnerable and needy residents

Also the budgets for schools, SEN [special educational needs] and roads will all have to be cut in the future.

There will be hard times ahead.

Will you stand as a borough councillor for Stoughton again in 2019?

Yes, I certainly hope too.

Cllr Pauline Searle obtaining local views at a Travel SMART voting event

Do you think local democracy is better off for the involvement of political parties?

I find this a difficult question to answer. I am not a very political person, but I would find it difficult not having a group of like minded people that share my values and ethos there to support me.

We all have a vision of what we would like to achieve for Guildford. Do political parties help in providing that? This is up to the voters. I wish residents would take a real interest in the candidates that put themselves forward for election especially at local level.

The main question residents should ask is will this person represent you to the best of their ability and will they work hard for all their residents whoever they might be. That to me is the role of a local councillor.

What have been the most frustrating issues you have had to deal with as a county councillor?

Surrey Highways.

But I must say that here in Guildford the local community highways officers have always been very helpful.

It is how Highways prioritise which roads should be resurfaced that I find frustrating. When Project Horizon came into place I thought what a good idea having a five year rolling programme. I thought that if your roads were on this list it would be resurfaced.

But we are still waiting for some. Stoughton Road was a prime example. The whole length of the road was in a very poor condition and was on the list for the whole road to be  resurfaced.

Instead they resurfaced the Worplesdon Road end to the junction of Grange and Manor Roads. Then two years later, after a uphill battle, they did the other end from the Woking Road to the railway bridge. There is still a length in the middle that is in a very poor condition from the bridge to the junction left to be finished.

And why are pot holes hardly ever filled properly first time?

And what have been your most satisfying successes or achievements?

There have been many small successes, mostly helping local groups with funding.

Amoung the bigger achievements: the new Stoke Scouts Hut was a real pleasure to be involved in; the resurfacing of many roads in Guildford North; and the environmental improvements and resurfacing of Woodbridge Hill.

Do you think the allowances are sufficient for councillors? County councillor allowances are higher than those for GBC. Is that justified?

I can honestly say that when I became a borough councillor I was unaware that we received an allowance. So money was never an issue. But that was because I had come to that time in life when my children had left home and were independent of us.

I do feel that now if we want to encourage more people from a wider range of ages and backgrounds, which is so important for the future of local government we need to be able to recompense them for their time and commitment to the council.

You are a born and bred Guildfordian and Surrey woman. Do you think Surrey is a better place now than it was in your childhood or worse?

I have always thought I was very lucky to have been born here and I have lived in Guildford and Surrey all my life. I am passionate about about the town and the area.

In Guildford I think things have changed, some for the better like getting rid of the worse of the sixties building. But we have to be careful and protect our lovely town.

I miss the many independent shops, the smell of new baked bread from the Coop Bakery in Haydon Place, which was near to where I went to school. I do not want Guildford to be a copy of every other town centre but to keep its identity .

The many other Surrey towns and villages are all unique and my hope for the future is that we can grow but retain what is so special. It is a difficult challenge.

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Responses to Dragon Interview: Cllr Pauline Searle – Retiring County Councillor

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    May 3, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    Whatever your political colour I would like to thank Cllr Searle for all her good works. It takes stamina and determination to do the job.

  2. Wayne Smith Reply

    May 4, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    How refreshing to read of someone who is involved in local politics for the right reasons, working for the benefit of residents, rather than just to further their own aims and/or to make progress up the greasy pole to Westminster.

    Nice to see honest, straightforward replies as well. Not one mention of modal shift.

    Well done Cllr. Searle.

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