Friday, January 19, 2007

Ever Thought About Being a Councillor?

At this time of year all the political parties are scratching around, desperately searching for people who are willing to stand at the May local council elections. I hope you’re sitting down when you read the next sentence… Have you ever considered standing?

No, I thought not, but I’m urging you to do so now. If we’re to reinvigorate our local democracy we need more people willing to serve their local communities and we need a more diverse range of people who become councillors. Too often, especially in rural areas, our councils are dominated by those who have reached retirement age. This is not an attack on councillors over the age of sixty at all, but I would hope they would agree with me that it is not healthy when we can’t seem to attract public service workers, housewives or young people to stand for local elections.

Being a local councillor can be a hugely rewarding experience and you don’t have to be steeped in party politics to enjoy it. We all have a responsibility to reinvigorate democracy both at a local and national level. So if you want to find out more about what being a councillor involves look at your local council’s website, visit their offices or contact the local office of whichever political party you feel closest to. Or if you can’t face doing that, just send me an email and I’ll point you in the right direction.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

OK - Ive taken up the challenge. Ive offered myself up in my new constituency. The problem many of my friends initially found was that councillorshave traditionally been, shall we say, fairly old, and didn't always make younger people (and I'm 31) feel welcome. Lets hope this attitude is changing.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Problem is Iain, here in Bristol only people with absolutely no skills in business whatsoever seem to be able to get into the nepotistic, back-scratching, snouts-in-the-trough world of incompetence which is Bristol City Council.

I take your point that we are the only ones who can change that, and that if we don't stand we become part of the problem, not part of the solution. But being in a 'minority of one' as the only one with half a brain, facing entrenched attitudes is sadly not an enticing prospect.

Although might be tempting, if only to write a 'whistleblowing' blog on just how corrupt & inefficient it is

Anonymous said...

Absolutely endorse every word of that.

Anonymous said...

Here here. I'd like to add that although campigning seems daunting at first it is actually alot of fun. I'm 22 and standing ad would encourage other young people to help fight the voter apathy amoung young people by getting into the game and making our voices heard.

Anonymous said...

Why should people want to be councillors? Central government has been steadily draining powers from local government for a quarter of a century; it's not financially rewarding; there's a huge workload if you do it properly; and you get an awful lot of crap from cranks and busybodies, as you do in many jobs open to the public. The surprise isn't that so few people want to become councillors, but that so many do.

Andrew Kennedy said...

Iain - thank you for posting this.

As Deputy Chairman (Political) of a local Association I dread this point in the political cycle.

Our constituency covers two local authority areas, both of which have "all out" elections. This means we need to recruit nearly 40 candidates to field a full slate in addition to numerous Town and Parish council vacancies.

Re-awakening the spirit of community service will be a long process and the first step will be the adoption of a truley localist agenda.

Kate said...

As a 30 year-old councillor, I totally support this appeal.

Constituencies usually find it really difficult to find people to stand (sadly often resulting in people not really suited to the job being talked into it), but I reckon there are many people out there who would like to get involved, but feel they need to be asked by someone. If you're one of them, you just need to make the first move, and the likeliehood is you'll be welcomed with open arms!

Anonymous said...

I stood as a Conservative in a safe Labour ward in London last May and I have to say it was one of the best things I've done with my clothes on.

I nearly won too! I recommend that anyone who thinks that all politicians are the same should get involved.

Odessa Ranting said...

It's like signing up for four years in the Big Brother House.

We need to get ride of that wretched Cabinet systems which is a green light to the freeloaders and snouts-in-the trough brigard. I'm a councillor in a London Borough. Of the cabinet of 10, we
have 3 perhaps 4 good cabinet members and one who defies belief.
There is a cabinet within a cabinet where the good ones are subtley excluded. I could go on.

Get rid of the Cabinet system which creats an enormous financial demarcation between Cabinet members and the rest and restore the old committee system. Mind you this is like asking turkey's to vote for Christmas.

Big Brother ain't got nothing on "Carry on up the Council". fYes we need a new intake of councillors bot even some of the g

newmania said...

On the other hand Iain we in Islignton managed to put out a full slate of candidates despite having little chance of success in any single ward. we came quite close in one or two and polled a lot of votes overall but with 50% Coucil Housing ( see Andover) and 70% of them on benefits the going is not easy.

Nonetheless many of the candidates were young and certainly came in all shapes and sizes.

Anonymous said...

I would, but I'm only 17.

Pedant said...

My wife is a portfolio-holder on a large unitary authority. It is more than a full-time job (seven days a week often twelve hours a day) She is paid. Neither she nor I are grumbling. She enjoys the challange and the fulfillment. I am pleased that she does, and even what I see of it is interesting. BUT there is no way that younger people could actually afford to do what she does. Who of younger age would give up or damage a career for the uncertainty of the vagiaries of political control in local government let alone the financial loss anyone of ability suffers by spending sufficient time to do the job? The government will have to sort out the financial aspects of the job to get sufficient young recruits of the right calibre.

Anonymous said...

ever been a councillor Iain? Or is chief of staff, influential blogger and parliamentary candidate as low down the food chain as you ever want to go??!

Stephen Tall said...

So you're standing this year then, Iain? ;)

Lobster Blogster said...

Have you ever considered standing?

No, I thought not...


Er, wrong Mr Dale. I've stood twice as it happens. Fortunately the electorate had more sense than to elect me.

Anonymous said...

Odessa is right, the Cabinet system has to go.

I was a Cllr for 12 yrs, Committee chair etc etc in the pre Cabinet days, and IMHO it was a lot more worthwhile then than now, as many of my former colleagues (& indeed members of the Other Side) who are still active tell me.

Cabinet member = lots of Fun, £ etc. Backbench = sidelined, *scrutiny* or no scrutiny.

Not written with the intent of dissuading folks from standing (just a call for counter-revolution!)

AussieGooner79 said...

Does anyone know if working in the civil service prohibits one from standing in local elections as well as Parliamentary?

And does anyone know how to persuade a rabidly socialist partner not to dump her boyfriend when he decides to stand as a Conservative candidate?!

Anonymous said...

Will B said...
I would, but I'm only 17.

Then bugger off and do your homework before you get a clip round the ear.......If I had my way you`d be stuck in school until you were 25 if you`re Lucky.

AND TAKE THAT GUM OUT OF YOUR MOUTH WHEN I`M TALKING TO YOU.

ConservativeHomo said...

Here in Sheffield we've got three new candidates in five of our target wards - all under 30 (I think - one might be just over). And I'm the only one who doesn't work in business. If we can get elected, things will be looking up!

media scum said...

I had 20 years as a councillor until the last election when I fought a new ward and the ward won.... I can't really see myself going back. Why ? Well if i wanted to be a tram driver i would apply for job with Blackpool Transport. The room for any form of local autonomy are so limited that any intelligent thinking (which, in the past, ahs come form councils of all political stripe) is pretty well dead.

Graeme Archer said...

I unexpectedly won a district council ward a few years ago and it was the best thing that ever happened to me, in terms of learning about local government (you can't fix it till you really understand how bad it can be run!) and just in terms of basic human development. It did me good to spend all that time listening to people who were having what you would dismiss as a "low level problem" if you came across it in a newspaper, but to the individuals concerned some of the "low level problems" were destroying the quality of their lives.

One thing I would offer to associations: don't be too fussy. I have been a member in a couple of associations who treat the selection of candidates as though they're appointing the next pope! I think open primaries are even more useful for candidate selection in council elections than they are for the parliamentary seats, and could be a great tool for getting voters interested in the party again, if you're living/working in an area with traditionally low Tory support. But you put people off if you set up too-high hurdles.

Hayek's Grandad said...

Yes I've thought about it but not being anywhere near 65 and not being middle class and not being willing to give up time to local association internal politics meant I had to withdraw in the end.

In my experience it's worse than Westminster (and that's saying something).

Anonymous said...

"Then bugger off and do your homework before you get a clip round the ear.......If I had my way you`d be stuck in school until you were 25 if you`re Lucky.

AND TAKE THAT GUM OUT OF YOUR MOUTH WHEN I`M TALKING TO YOU."

Meh, have no homework. Been ill all week. It's rather depressing, I know, but that's life. It gives me time to get blog related things done, so it isn't all that bad, but still isn't great.

-spits gum out and goes back to his own blog for some more link adding-

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been a councillor, Iain? How is it hugely rewarding?

Anonymous said...

I would like to stand, but being a student, I am not in either place enough to give the post the dedication that it requires and deserves.

Anonymous said...

Grame is right about not setting the hurdles too high. BUT don't set them too low either, just because you're desperate. Having pondlife elected as Conservative Party councillors is not good for the Party, locally or nationally.

If anyone does find themselves on a selection panel ask yourself 'would you be happy with this person as your councillor?'

Anonymous said...

Iain I hope you'll be putting your oney where your mouth is and standing in Tunbridge Wells this year?

Iain Dale said...

For the record, I have stood for councils on four occasions, but in unwinnable seats. I haven't got the time to be a councillor at the moment. I seriously considered it last year but with all the stuff going on in my life at the moment it is not for me.

Part of the problem is finding people to stand as paper candidates in unwinnable seats - for all parties. I think it's terrible if people don't have a Conservative to vote for, so even if you wouldn't want to actually win, you can still do your bit by allowing your name to go forward.

Anonymous said...

Alas, most of the people with the requisite ability have already got jobs.