Outside interest: parish council work

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 11 May 2016

Roger SmithWhen he's not in the Savills' office working as a planning director, Roger Smith is vice chairman of Stratton St Margaret Parish Council in Swindon.

How did you get into being vice chairman of the parish council?

I have been in the parish council for 11 years. I wanted to get involved in my local community and try to influence change, and gradually took on more responsibility.

What does it involve?

Most parish councils are rural but this is an urban one with a population of around 22,000 people and we own and run several facilities such as open spaces and community centres. The role of a parish councillor is much like that of a school governor; last week I chaired a meeting and I'm responsible for finance, involving meetings with accountants. I also help organise an annual festival. I'm paid a small allowance - £15 a week – which is not life changing. 

Why do you do it?

I think it's important to get involved with your local community and try and make a difference. Lots of people are happy to sit on the sidelines and moan about their communities but relatively few are prepared to get involved and it's often the same sort of people – school governors and parish councillors. If that's how it is, so be it, we have an important role to play

What’s the toughest thing about it?

Finding the time is hard: I dedicate at least an evening every fortnight and if I didn't work I'd spend more time handling parish affairs. You also have go in with your eyes open and realise that any change you make will probably be on the margins, however ambitious you start out to be.

What’s the most rewarding thing about it?

It's great seeing other people get involved. I help organise an annual tree-planting event with the Woodland Trust where youth and church groups plant hundreds of trees. It's good to know that when we are long gone, our legacy will be alive and well.

Are there any similarities between your day job and being vice chairman of a parish council?

People skills and the power of persuasion are important to both, be it trying to coax a client to modify a mixed-use scheme or win over your community to a new annual event in the parish. 

Do you have any unusual interests or hobbies that you would like to tell us about? If so, please email planning@haymarket.com