I met Sally through an event at my school, and she gave me her card.
So, the moment we've all been waiting for...
My interview with Sally Marks!
Hello Sally! What do you work as?
I have two or three jobs; firstly I am an Elected County Councillor for Surrey County Council. One of the roles I have there is as the Chairman of a Select Committee which looks at all services provided to people who need Adult Social Care.
Secondly, I am also an Elected District Councillor for Tandridge District Council.
Thirdly, I am also a Director of a Travel Company.
How much training does it take?
Anyone can put themselves forward to become a Councillor. Most people ally themselves to a political party who can help to inform and prepare them both for the election process and then of course for the role once elected. The great thing about being a councillor is that you bring to the Council your own experience – whether it is as Doctor, a Lawyer, a Business Person, Teacher, Carer or Parent – or even a student. The collective experiences of the councillors can help them to join together to offer different perspectives on what may be needed to support and service the local community. Once elected, most local councils also offer training in some aspects of council business. Planning for instance needs to be properly explained to people not used to this area of work – there are legal terms and implications of some decision making so it is important to know what one can do, say or decide.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
The wonderful thing about being a councillor is that rarely are two days the same.
I could go to County Hall (the headquarters of Surrey County Council) for a Scrutiny meeting for instance (Scrutiny just means that we really look hard for evidence that services provided by the Council are of a high standard; are appropriate and also good value for money). Another day I could visit a care home or discuss with officers how to improve services for people with a learning disability for instance. Sometimes I attend meetings locally in Tandridge where we discuss the Highways and road improvements for instance.
I also get involved with lots of local groups or projects such as the Neighbourhood Plan that we talked about when we all met at de Stafford School. I also am a Director of the Soper Hall Community Trust which has recently taken ownership of the building in Caterham from the local district council. I also attend a Business Forum in Caterham where I try to support the local businesses and retailers in the area. I am also involved in the Caterham Festival and have been on the Steering Group for this since its start.
I also support our local Hospice by helping them fund-raise and so on.
I am also a Parish Councillor for Woldingham so I get involved in trying to improve the village. As a County Councillor I also visit two other Parish Councils in the area to see how I can support them too.
As a District Councillor I may get calls from local residents who have a complaint about the new re-cycling service or even occasionally get to hear that things are going well.
Sometimes I go to Westminster to meet the Member of Parliament and discuss issues with him – such as recently when I met him in his office to try and get him to help on some planning issues.
Every day is different – which is exciting!
Do you enjoy it?
Yes, I do. Sometimes the meetings can be a bit too long and there is a lot to read and prepare. But I love meeting new people and trying to help them.
Do you get paid much?
Not very much! As a Surrey County Councillor I do get an allowance (which is about £11,000 a year) and I also get a special responsibility allowance because I am a Chairman of a Scrutiny/Select Committee. I also get a very small allowance from Tandridge District Council (which is about £200 a month). I can claim mileage allowance as well. However, if I counted up how many hours I worked my hourly rate of pay would be very small indeed.
I am lucky in that I also receive a salary from my own business and this enables me to be able to afford to take on the roles that I have. It would be hard to rely on the councillor allowance as my only income. I am concerned that this might prevent some very talented people from becoming a councillor. My work as a County Councillor usually takes place during the day – although I don’t spend all day, every day on this. The District Council tends to meet in the evenings.
Is it hard?
The work is not hard, but can be detailed and challenging. But it is worth doing.
How long have you wanted this job?
I have been a County Councillor for 11 and a half years. I had tried some years before that to get elected but was unsuccessful. It didn’t put me off however and so I tried again another time. That can be quite scary – to offer yourself to the general public for election! I first became a District Councillor earlier this year.
What was your last job?
I have been a business woman for some years and before that I was Broadcaster/Newsreader with the BBC World Service (Radio) and I had also worked at ITN in the Newsroom. I had also worked in the Middle East as a Television and Radio Newsreader and Presenter. I have also ran a Catering Business. All of these different roles have been helpful in my present work.
If you could be anything else in the world, what would you be?
I think I would have loved to have been a Television Presenter – here in the UK. Recently I did try to be an MP and very nearly was. However I wish that I had tried to do that when I was a bit younger.
Do you have any advice for young people aiming to be the next Sally Marks?
I don’t want anyone to be the next Sally Marks! But I do hope that young people will be ambitious to achieve the best they can – both for themselves and also for others. There is much to do in this world to help and support people who are not as lucky as us or who may have a disability for instance. I believe very strongly that people can achieve so much – if they work hard and have a goal. Aim high!
Thank you for letting me interview you!
You are very welcome.