South East Employers: Local Democracy and Accountability Network
South East Employers: Local Democracy and Accountability Network The Councillor Commission: The Voice of the Councillor Colin Copus: Emeritus Professor of Local Politics De Montfort University, Leicester England Visiting Professor of Local Politics, University of Ghent Belgium Email: [email protected] @ProfCopusLG Introduction
The Commission Our Research The main challenges facing councillors Councillors: Joining up the Dots A 24-hour a day job Councillors and their roles Information Next Steps Our Research
Started taken evidence in December 2015 finished evidence collection December 2016 31 round table discussions with councillors 10 round table with just parishes Number of councillors attending round tables (total) 336 Number of written submissions
128 NALC Survey: 81 responses Twitter chat via @DMULGRU using #CllrCommission Councillors: Main themes Globalisation Europeanisation (now de-Europeanisation) Urbanisation
Austerity Government control Powers and finances Devolution Ensuring community cohesion
Proximity to the community The problems of place and not place... Council boundaries: Administratively Convenient Lines on a Map Points of the compass councils:
East Staffordshire North East Derbyshire South Norfolk South Hams South Holland North Shropshire East Hampshire West Berkshire West Lindsey North Yorkshire North East Lincolnshire Mid Suffolk Casual mergers: Ampersand Councils
Redcar and Cleveland Kings Lynn and West Norfolk Basingstoke and Deane Brighton and Hove Bath and North East Somerset Oadby and Wigston Blackburn with Darwen Barking and Dagenham Weymouth and Portland These Places Just Dont Exist Three Rivers (the Chess, Gade and Colne)
Sandwell (Sandwell Priory) Newham (Merger of East Ham and West Ham, so it was a NewHam) Kirklees (Kirklees Priory legendary burial place of the English freedom fighter and resistance hero: Robin Hood) Calderdale (a river) Telford and Wrekin (Telford a bloke; Wrekin, a hill) Vale of White Horse ( A valley and the Bronze Age Uffington White horse) These Council Names are Quite Good, Though Bassetlaw Babergh Craven
Dacorum Rushcliffe Shepway Teignbridge Tendring Wirral The names derive from Anglo-Saxon hundreds Joining up the Dots: Governing Locally Local Government exists in a fragmented and often chaotic network of
competing and interacting agencies and bodies with different: Purposes Resources Policies Structures Ambitions Powers Most operate beyond the boundaries of any one parish council and have little or no accountability to the public or concern for place Councillors and Complexity
Real challenges to purpose and place of local government Lack sufficient powers Delivering cohesion across the public sector Austerit y New ways of leading communities and the council Cooperating
across agencies The Councillor: A 24 hour-a-day job Proximity to the community Based within the community Ease of access for citizens Visible, contactable, approachable Few boundaries between personal, political, council, social or work life Use of proximity as a representative tool Underestimates of the hours councillors work
But theres always the A team councillor (the one if you can find, maybe you can work with) Official Mind and Public Image Official inquiries differ from public pronouncements by ministers of all parties (a general view) Inquiries demonstrate an understanding of the pressures of the role and the tension between political representation and public service responsibilities Views from ministers, white papers etc is that the office is not adequately formed and requires constant tinkering to amend its second rate nature and that the holders of the office are not politicians (pay, pensions, protection) or volunteers Public Image: On a good day, Reeves and Mortimer as Councillors Cox and Evans Aldington-on-Sea Public Information Film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeARXMHW4I
s Challenges to staying a Councillor: Political or Personal Political Internal party democracy or lack of it Party discipline Disagreement with the party group / party Council having too little power Being a cllr had too little power Personal - Weight of work - Time demands - Work, life, council balance - Moved out of the council
area - Private personal reasons - Health A Simple Question WHY DO IT?? Why do it? (1) Public service: motivated by a deep sense of public service, of pursuing public well-being, of giving up their time, energy and resources to provide a service to fellow citizens The democratic spirit: linked to public service, councillors often have a deepcentred belief in the democratic system and in deliberation and the democratic way of resolving political
differences. Also to advance the political party and its views and interests. Why do it! (2) Ambition: desire to achieve for personal growth and success and to stand out in some way as having secured victory in open competition and to further personal advancement and growth Status: linked to ambition but status is more about being able to use the leverage of the office as a tool for securing influence and getting things done. How councillors see their role? Empower Enfranchise Excite and motivate
Lead Support and advise Create a dialogue and shared vision Channel messages and views Mediate conflicts over local issues Promote, protect and defend the interests of a specific ward or division or of specific communities within those wards Promote, protect and defend the interests of a specific community (or
interest) across the entire council area What do Councillors Want? ... We want information ... Well, you wont get it ..... By hook, or by crook, we will What do we not Want? Central regulation and control... Councillors expressed frustration at the level of oversight and control exercised by central government Different currents of opinion from councillors A desire for greater freedom, but A desire for more guidance and regulations about what central
government expects Because localism... Councillors are sceptical of governments approaches and commitment to localism Localism is what we do, every day Governing Locally Councillors and the office of councillor, make a positive contribution to: The fabric and health of democracy Participation in politics Localising decision-making The accountability of supra-local bodies Linking citizens into the chain of
governing Making the local papers far less boring Next Steps Regional workshops Work with other organisations such as the LGA Policy papers Celebrating and sharing best practice Continuing to listen to councillors Asking councils to debate the report and to write to the Government, local MPs and their parties, supporting the recommendations and asking for change. Conclusion: The Future for Councillors: Doomsday or Sunlit Uplands Continued austerity
Reduction in the status and functions of elected local government Erosion of financial autonomy Partnerships and governance replaces elected local government Networks of unelected and unaccountable public (and private) bodies continue to erode local government to become
the most powerful players in sub-national government Elected local government further marginalised and reduced in number: merger madness prevails Increased support and resources for councillors Councils structured to recognise role of cllrs as politicians Government asserts role of councillors as vital to democracy Public and private bodies recognise right of cllrs to govern and respond accordingly
Greatly enhanced status, position and public / media recognition of the role and importance of the office of councillor
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