From sorting out the bins to strategic oversite of high street renewals, from sunny green parks to pot-holed roads, an awful lot of business starts and ends with local councillors. Those putting themselves up for election this May are probably feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension with regard to not only the electoral process but wondering what they are letting themselves in for.
Of course, some will have been here before and know the restrictions of the existing system but for some newbies it will be a voyage of discovery where they may be about to find out that their bid to change the local ‘world’ for the better comes with limitations and frustrations despite the democratic mandate given to them by local people.
It should not however be unreasonable to expect that having won a local election, and having been entrusted with that local leadership role by the public, that Councillors would have, at the very least, oversight of all public funds spent within neighbourhoods and wider council areas. Rightly they should be regarded as place leaders, the voice of the public, there to allocate scarce resources in a fair and balanced way across all communities; not an easy task given current finances.
However, with the fragmentation of services like education, housing and leisure arguably some Councillors may feel that their role is almost reduced to at best arm’s length influence in some areas. Some are left feeling that they are on the outside looking in, with limited powers to hold other public and private bodies accountable as to how they operate within local areas.
Perhaps now is the time we need consider how we can better empower and support councillors in their important work. Some within the local community may also feel that the current system of local politics does not represent them fairly or reflect who they are. The system needs to reconnect with people not make them feel as if they are excluded by design.
A radical system reset may be needed. One which supports the role of councillors, values their role and is able to attract people from all walks of life. A system which provides proper training and support to fulfil their many different responsibilities. And one that provides realistic remuneration for the long-hours, the responsibilities and the many hours acting as champions of their local communities.
Perhaps it is time to build a system that enriches all of us who benefit from good local leadership and supports our local councillors acting in their line of duty.