Councillor Michael Payne
LLB Law, Lancaster University, 2008
Deputy Leader of the Council and Councillor for St. Mary’s ward, Gedling Borough Council – since May 2011
Councillor for North Arnold, Nottinghamshire County Council – since May 2013
What has been your path from graduation to your current post?
Immediately after completion of my degree I took up post as full-time President of Lancaster University Students’ Union, a role to which I’d been elected in the last term of my degree course. During my tenure I was elected as national Chair of Unions94 to represent the twelve students’ unions of the 1994 Group of British Universities.
After I left Lancaster I spent a short period of time representing the university and students’ union in India to forge closer relationships with our partner institutions and fellow students there. Then I became Regional Director of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign in the national referendum to decide whether or not to introduce the alternative vote system for Westminster elections. In this role I managed five campaign offices across the East Midlands, a small team of staff and over five-hundred volunteers.
What are your main responsibilities in your current role?
The main responsibilities I now have are two-fold. As a district and county councillor it is my responsibility to represent my constituents at the council and to assist them with casework; as Deputy Leader of the Council at Gedling Borough it is my responsibility to politically lead the organisation along with the Leader and Cabinet. We set the strategy and policy framework within which the council’s officers work.
I also represent local government nationally on issues relating to community safety at the Local Government Association – this helps provide a wider context and understanding for my Cabinet responsibility at Gedling, which is communications and public protection.
What are the most rewarding and most challenging aspects?
The current economic climate has brought a difficult set of challenges to my role. With major reductions to funding from government, budget-setting and choosing between competing priorities is all the more important and significant. This has been challenging but provided an opportunity for me to reflect thoroughly on the council’s current work and future plans.
The most rewarding aspect of my role as a district and county councillor is helping to improve communities and supporting those I represent at a local level. There is nothing more rewarding than helping a resident or family to resolve an issue that they have tried to tackle and that has caused them problems.
How has your social science degree helped you at work?
There is no doubt that my social science degree (Law) has helped me in my current role; the analytical and communication skills have helped me carry out the advocacy and scrutiny aspects of my work. The persuasion skills and specific skills relating to drafting of and understanding legislation have also been particularly helpful.
What do you think social science graduates can offer employers that other graduates might not?
Social science graduates pay attention to the facts and figures whilst being unafraid to scrutinise, question and challenge them.
Considering the human impact of policy decisions is crucial in my role as a councillor – the broad skills set I learnt whilst reading for my degree have helped me to do this.
Any advice for sixth-form students considering studying social science at degree level?
Social science degrees are just as important as degrees which lead directly to a specific profession or vocation. The skills you learn, the people you meet and the knowledge you accrue from a social science degree are invaluable in future life.
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