Interview with Councillor Steve Darling Transcript Alex: You're listening to the Blind Spot, a podcast from Thomas Pocklington Trust. Mike Bell: (0:05) My name is Mike Bell, I am the National Public Affairs Lead for Sight Loss Councils and Thomas Pocklington Trust. And I'm joined today by Councillor Steve Darling, who is the leader of Torbay Council in Devon and Torbay Council is a unitary Council. So an all purpose Council in Devon, so Steve is a really key figure in his community. And we're going to talk to him today about some of the some of the experiences that he's had leading his counsel serving as a counsellor and particularly from the perspective of a person with a vision impairment. So, Hi, Steve, thanks very much for joining us. Hello, and good morning. So, can you tell us something about yourself, Steve, and how long you've been a councillor? Steve Darling: (0:55 Right. So I'm, I'm 52. I've been a counsellor for 28 years on Torbay continuously. I'm leader of Torbay. I have a particular passion for affordable housing and also children's services are an area of particular interest to me. I think if I, if I was to say what, what what gets me up in the morning, what, what motivates me for being a councillor, I would say it's empowering our communities. It's tackling green issues. And it's also tackling poverty in our community. So the three legs of that stool, that's why I'm a Lib Dem councillor Mike: 1:37 Brilliant, Thanks, Steve. And so you've been a councillor quite a long time and what what keeps you sticking at it? Because we do hear from a lot of councillors who, who find it as sort of tough and frustrating process being a local elected politician. So what keeps you going through it all? Steve 1:54 I'm keen that we are more inclusive as a council - actually have higher aspirations for our area. Want Tor Bay to be the premier resort in the United Kingdom. Not Torbay to be the second worst for having the numbers of kids who are in who are in care. Want us to stop being the most deprived local authority in the southwest of England. I've got high ambitions for Torbay and for our communities, and I represent one of the most deprived communities in Torbay. And it's really lovely that when I'm walking around one of one of our former council estates, the people shout over to me and they say, “Oh, it's our Steve” and things like that. It's, it's really being part of that community. And being able to project the aspirations of our community into the town hall is really important. Mike: 2:47 We support a network of Sight Loss Councils. So we've got lots of blind and partially sighted people who are campaigners and volunteers and supporters of our work. What advice would you have for people who want to get involved with and influence their counsel? What are your sort of top tips? Steve: 3:05 I think it's probably model yourself on a three-year-old, of the type of question that they do, where they just ask why to everything - is always worthwhile. I think it's Don't be afraid of putting yourself forward is really important. Because I've been a counsellor for such a long period of time, it's perhaps challenging for me to put myself back at that beginning position. But everybody really does have something to offer - a different perspective. And that is actually why councils with a number of elected members rather than the elected mayor system, where it's more than one person trying to project themselves onto other people's views. Now, the reality is that by having the number of people with different perspectives, you can get better outcomes. And so by being engaging, and it's not being afraid to ask for help is the crucial thing for me. It's being fairly transparent with your work. The first people, if you're wanting to engage with the council, is actually you're wanting to go through some of the paperwork. Now 30 years ago, when I approached Torbay, one of the officers who supported the committee section as it was then, actually sat in the lobby of the council and read through all the paperwork for the committee that I was going to go to, because they weren't able to put it in a more accessible format for me then, and they were really pleased that somebody was taking an interest in the council. And they ended up by sadly saying, there you are you've probably read it, you're probably more alive to what's going on than a number of the committee members who will be turning up to the meeting later on today. S

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