Latest Events

North Walsham councillor steps down

Just Regional
Feb 7, 2013 4 mins read

By ED FOSS

For eight years Paul Morse has been serving the communities of North Walsham East, Walcott, Happisburgh, Dilham, Honing, Witton and Ridlington – but in May he will not seek re-election to his Norfolk County Councillor role.

Most people don’t know much about the activities of a county councillor until they need some help with a highways, education or health matter.

It then often turns out that the local county councillor may hold the key, or at least know the person who holds the key, to unlock the problem. Paul admits he had a steep learning curve when he was first elected under the Liberal Democrat banner in 2005.

“You constantly come up against things about which you know nothing, or very little,” he said. “I hadn’t a clue about surface water drainage for instance, and planning legislation was not a specialist subject to say the least.

“But these kind of issues matter a great deal to people when there is a threat of flooding or a really deep concern about a planning application, so you learn your way around the system, and perhaps just as importantly you learn who the people are who can help.”

Successes are hard to claim outright, admits Paul, because it’s never quite clear which specific lobbying efforts have changed the situation – often other people are involved in trying to bring pressure to bear.

But Paul says he doubts a number of projects would have come off if he had not been involved. These include securing a new gritting route in Brick Kiln Road, the safety bollards in North Street, the creation of a federation of the Manor Road schools, reducing flooding risk in town (few people in North Walsham can have forgotten the summer 2008 rainstorm which caused so much damage and distress), securing school places for individuals, battling with the Child Support Agency, the creation of a permissive footpath between White Horse Common and the gun club, making sure footpaths are cut and raising money for Kickz and the Walcott flood wardens.

On the downside there have been frustrations – especially where agencies can’t agree who is responsible for a particular problem, for instance a blocked ditch which only needs a small amount of regular maintenance but no one wants to take on the job.

So why is he not standing for election this time around? “I’ve done it for eight years, I’m now 60 years old and I have a little less energy than before. I want more time for myself and to have the freedom to set my own priorities.

“We’ve also had some ill health in the family in the past couple of years, which has made me stop and think. Added to that, I’ve become tired of the behaviour of a minority of councillors who seem to be in it to win party political games at all costs. And while national party politics should not be a big part of a councillor’s role, I find myself, as a Liberal Democrat, increasingly uncomfortable with some aspects of government policy. For instance I’m appalled by the desire to turn all schools into academies, which would mean the county council would have no responsibility, and therefore no control, over the education of our young people.”

Although Paul admits to being nervous about the amount of time he will need to fill after stepping down, he intends to stay on in his role as chair of governors at the high school, to organise his garden, focus more on his beloved walking, write some more press reports for North Walsham Rugby Club and spend more time at the cricket – he is an Essex member and a Gloucestershire supporter.

“I’ve enjoyed my time helping people solve problems, but I’m also looking forward to less pressure.”

Picture: SAM MEYER

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