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Councillor Lawrence Wilson has served on Ferndown Town Council since being first co-opted to serve in 2015. In the 2019 local elections he was elected to represent the Amysford Ward. He has served on both the Planning and Environment Committees and is currently a member of the Personnel Committee and the Natural Environment Committee.
Councillor Wilson has served on the Ecological Working Party since 2018. During his time as a Councillor he has been involved with many projects, but protecting our environment and wildlife is a particular passion.
[Q] Hi Lawrence. How long have you lived in the area and what is your connection with it?
[A] I have lived in Ferndown all my life and I went to all three Ferndown schools whilst growing up. Also, on my mum’s side, my family’s roots in the surrounding area, date back to at least the 19th century and probably much longer.
[Q] What was the trigger that made you run for office?
[A] I became actively involved in national politics in 2014 and as an unintentional result I started to learn about local politics, something I hadn’t previously known that much about. I felt like we needed more people who weren’t representing the establishment parties and pushing their agendas in local councils. I feel like we need a council run by residents for residents, not for Westminster’s interests. I worried about losing our green belt and mass housing developments popping up everywhere, so I decided to try to do something about it. I don’t want to see our town be concreted over, I feel this will change Ferndown for the worse forever.
[Q] Is the job roughly what you expected? What stands out as a surprise in the way the council is run?
[A] It was for the most part, but I was surprised with the control a few members had over the whole council and how so many decisions seemed to be made behind closed doors. This has been a real problem with our council, and, as an example, this was shown earlier this year when without any indication to the other Councillors, or the public for that matter, before the local elections, the Conservative majority turned the council into a political cabinet system. This was actively opposed by many Councillors and this new system was found to be unlawful, and it was subsequently dismantled, thankfully.
[Q] How do you find working with the other councillors? Do you feel there is enough leadership/team work?
[A] I think I have a good relationship with most of the councillors, even if we don’t always agree on everything. There are some who I hold in very high regard and enjoy working with, this includes councillors from different parties, some I have even stood against in elections. We could do a lot better when it comes to working together, but we have come a long way I feel in a few months since the issues I spoke about in the previous question.
[Q] When you look at the many facets of Ferndown what do you see as areas of unused potential which could make things better.
[A] We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country, but we should do more to protect our nature sites and promote them. We have many protected and endangered species that call Ferndown home and we must ensure that they don’t disappear. I would like to make the most of our natural areas and see more efforts to secure funding for more conservation projects to take place. I think promoting nature walks and group activities would bring more interest to Ferndown, and we could make the most of our natural sites whilst protecting them for future generations.
[Q] Along with that question of course lies its opposite. What areas do you see as particularly problematic?
[A] Services not keeping up with demand (and in some cases losing services) mass development and the terrible traffic problems, which can cause misery to residents. The problem is these issues are entwined with each other, more houses means more people which creates more strain on services and more cars on the road. In future I would like to see more organised efforts between Councillors and residents to fight against over development and cause as much noise as possible, the squeaky wheel gets the oil at the end of the day!
[Q] Most people running for office have, if not an agenda, at least a target or two which they would particularly like to address. What do you see as your goals?
[A] As I have previously mentioned, I am for protecting the green belt and stopping over development, for all the reasons I have touched on. I would like to see more investment into our services and infrastructure, unfortunately this comes from Dorset Council and an un-united town council will struggle to achieve much. I think the council should put its differences to one side and put more pressure on Dorset Council for funding.
[Q] Do you feel the council is approachable enough? If not how do you think it could be improved?
[A] We have very helpful and friendly staff working for Ferndown Town Council, and most Councillors are more than willing to help residents if they can, but things can always be improved. I would like to see the public get more useful information on what the town council is in charge of and who to contact for each query.
[Q] There is a great deal of public apathy towards local councils. How do you feel this could be addressed?
[A] The easiest way to fix that would be for councils to listen to residents and implement their wishes if possible. Unfortunately, that rarely happens so like the previous question, the best way to fight apathy would be to get more useful information out to residents and for Councillors to be more visible to their residents. The problem is that apathy lets things go unnoticed or unchallenged until it’s too late, and then that creates more apathy as residents are unhappy with the decisions made. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be resolved if residents take an interest. All the information is available if you want it.
[Q] When you look across the country (including Dorset) thousands of parish/town councils have Councillor vacancies. Ferndown has no vacancies and almost all seats were contested at election time. With regard to local democracy, what is Ferndown doing right that the others are doing wrong?
[A] This wasn’t always the case, when I first got involved with the town council, there were three vacancies after the 2015 local elections and there were no seats contested in those elections. What changed over the next few years was a new and strong opposition formed on the council, and subsequently both sides did a lot of recruiting before the election this year. It’s good for democracy to have many different opinions on a council, so in that regard, our council is doing very well.
I hope that this has been helpful, and I thank you for taking the time to contact me with your questions.
The SFRA would like to express their gratitude to Councillor Wilson for spending the time to engage with us and for this thoughtful contribution. We hope that contributions like his will give readers a better understanding of our council, how it works and what motivates those that serve upon it. We hope that Councillor Wilson’s contribution will help reduce the fog of anonymity that surrounds much of local government both in the Ferndown and the UK as a whole.