Cllr Daniel Brown is a councillor for South Hams.
The morning of Friday, May 6th, 2019 was a memorable one for both good and bad reasons.
The good people of Wembury and Brixton Ward (South Hams) had put their faith in me for another four years. I had been returned, albeit with a slightly smaller majority this time, compared to 2015. The day was, however, tempered with the loss of a number of fine Councillors at South Hams. We lost nine seats across the District, including eight to the Liberal Democrats. Personally, however, I was delighted to have weathered the storm, and looked forward to working with my newly elected fellow Ward Member, Cllr Matthew Chown.
I joined our Party ten years ago at the age of 16, inspired by David Cameron’s modernisation and ‘One Nation’ vision. I remember attending my first party meeting in South West Devon in 2009, which saw (now Sir) Gary Streeter re-selected as our Candidate for the constituency. Having grown up in the West Country, in the small Devon village of Wembury, I moved to London at 18 to study politics at the University of Greenwich. London was quite an experience, moving to the ‘Big Smoke’ (as my grandmother calls it), from Devon. I enjoyed the novelty of the big city factor for about six weeks, after which my feeling was “well this has been fun, can I go home now please”. Nonetheless I stuck in out in London for the next 2 years, and I have to say, I am better for it and now occasionally work in the Capital.
In my final year at Greenwich, students had the choice between completing a Dissertation, or Parliamentary/political placement. This, for me was not a difficult choice. I applied to the Office of Gary Streeter MP, and was kindly granted a three month internship working in his Office, in Portcullis House, Westminster. These three months made my three years in London worthwhile. In May 2014 I graduated with a very reasonable BA Hons. Politics 2.1, and returned home to South Hams.
My journey in public office began at the relatively young age of 21. In July 2014, just 3 months after finishing University, a vacancy for a new councillor opened on my local Parish Council in Wembury, for which I applied. I was granted an interview, after which the then Chairman informed me that councillors ‘wanted to take a chance on some younger blood’’ and I was duly co-opted to the Parish Council. Things happened fairly quickly thereafter…
October 2014, the then district councillor, the late great John Squire, informed our local branch that after 37 years of service as a district councillor he would be stepping down the following May. After another interview I was selected by the Down Thomas Conservative Branch to stand as the candidate for Wembury and Brixton. On 7th May 2015, Cllr John Squire retired and South Hams District Council lost its eldest member at 86 years of age (he had served on Wembury Parish Council for over half a Century), and in-stepped myself as its youngest Councillor shortly before my 22nd Birthday. If I didn’t realise the size of shoes I was filling then… I would very soon.
My first term as a councillor was something of a balancing act, I had a lot to learn. I was still living at home with my parents and sister, attending to my duties as both a parish and district councillor, studying for a Masters Degree at Plymouth University, and working 20-30 hours a week at the bar of my local Golf Club.
Fast forward to the present-day, I work in the constituency office of Sir Gary Streeter MP, whilst also attending to my duties as a district councillor and Parish Chairman. I serve as Deputy Chairman (Political) of South West Devon Conservatives.
Whilst at times very challenging, being a local councillor is also very rewarding, it’s the absolute grassroots of local democracy. The most contentious local issue we have to deal with is, by far, planning.
The reason for my writing this, it to try and persuade more young people to stand in local government. I am lucky that, on the councils I serve on, we have a good mix of more experienced members, who bring a lifetime of experience to their role as a Councillor, which is invaluable to our communities. Whilst also seeing a number of younger members coming on board and getting involved, representing their community.
I understand the challenges and barriers that prevent younger people standing, giving up a significant amount of time, for very little remuneration. I don’t have children, but I can see how balancing work, a relationship, and children, with public service could be a daunting prospect. Nevertheless, it can be one of the most rewarding moves you ever make.