At the risk of sounding like phone-in therapist Frasier Crane of American sitcom fame, I’m listening.
I may be a local councillor rather than a radio counsellor, but as I sat and personally replied recently to Facebook concerns about the possible closure of the Leisureworld ice rink, I was struck by the similarities.
We’re both easily available to anyone who wants to get in touch, we’re both expected to come up with answers to all sorts of different problems – and we’re both dependent on the contributions of others to help us come up with the best course of action for all those involved.
We were told that not enough people were using the rink and as a consequence no one was prepared to invest in its refurbishment. The only option was to close it and use the space for an alternative leisure use, said the experts, and we all know that an unforeseen consequence of not using something is that it might not be there when you do want it.
Although Dacorum Borough Council doesn’t own or run the ice rink, we did lift a legal covenant on the land to allow new development to go ahead.
Faced with a potentially empty or even derelict site, we wanted to move forward and encourage regeneration.
Indeed, we were legally obliged to do so – and we felt the majority of residents would agree.
But the strength of feeling stirred up left me feeling that it wasn’t an open and shut decision.
Having seen the petition, heard about the demonstration and read the pleas on social media, I worked behind the scenes to get Capital and Regional and Planet Ice talking.
They are now exploring keeping it open and incorporating it into future renovation plans.
It’s uncertain what they will decide, but for now at least the proactive campaigning our democracy encourages has meant that the ice rink’s doors are still open.
So if you want to get vocal about things local, here’s your chance.
Make sure you have a say on how the council’s budget is spent by responding to the online consultation we’ve just launched.
Like all local authorities, we’ve had to make savings over the last few years as part of the government’s drive to reduce public debt.
But we still need to save more than £1 million next year and achieve total savings in the region of £5 million over the next four years.
We’re continuing to look at how we can work more efficiently and improve our services while boosting the local economy.
I’d welcome your ideas about how we can do this. Please help us to plan ahead by telling us what’s important to you.
You can find the budget consultation at www.dacorum.gov.uk/consultation or you can get a paper copy by calling 01442 228000 and asking for Customer Services.
The deadline for replies is midnight on Tuesday, December 10.
Local opinion can and does shape our policies. If you have an idea or want to change something, don’t keep your thoughts to yourself. I’m listening.
Councillor Andrew Williams is the leader of Dacorum Borough Council. You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the council on 01442 228000