Section two – How others see the councillor role

How others see the role is also important; councillors report that constituents are generally unaware of what they do and what are the limitations of their role. This is confirmed by those that we spoke to during the research – not only do few people really understand how the council works and how councillors fit in, many don’t know who their local councillor is!

Councillors often wear different ‘hats’ and sometimes these hats get mixed up when they don’t wear them appropriately; they can be a resident, councillor, board member, parent, service user all at the same time. People can sometimes be confused about which hats they are wearing in different contexts.

A specific issue for some constituents, when their councillor has additional responsibilities, such as being a cabinet member, is trying to get meetings or events in their diary. This is especially relevant when councillors are not in charge of their own diaries. It can be very frustrating trying to set dates for future meetings when it is not possible to know your councillors availability.

Some respondents question the competency and capability of some town and parish councillors to carry out a new interpretation of their role. There is a different skill set needed as well as a shift in attitudes.

…….localism is not the shopping list model of being a councillor – it requires working with people – requires a different skill set.

There is a perceived danger if councillors set themselves up as self styled leaders and if they are too strong a character…that this can lead to a paralysis of the local community. Simiarly, voluntary organisations can find it hard to deal with councillors with strong character when they sit on their boards.

Thoughts on what councillors could do more of – from people in voluntary and community groups/organsations:

Be more flexible, responsive and accessible, and understand the impact of decisions or inertia on communities

Be open to suggestions about urgency – getting things done without layers of bureaucracy

Be more pro-active…only see them when they are canvassing

Act as bridge or broker to those who make decisions

Be the village chief – offer support to find out information, signpost and connect

Help local people to support and push through issues into action and support people through council processes

Work for the good of the community

…rediscover the sense they are elected to represent people not the council

Stop doing things that don’t work well

Stop the ‘it’s not going to work’ mentality and ‘we’ve tried this before’…

Not just focus one on one relationships……we need thematic based forums with all councillors – they’re from a patch.

Encourage community owned forums with ground rules

Use online resources for people to communicate their issues – learn how to use social media

Be impartial and provide balance

Be  a critical friend to the community

Encourage involvement, motivate and inspire

Know their area – their patch and how people are already involved

Be open and transparent about what they can and cannot make decisions on

Offer feedback so people know the impact of decisions

Celebrate community, not just groups

Mediate different interests –  young/old; rich/poor – bring people together

Talk to people – get out there

Encourage and inspire young people to engage

Listen and hear local people with different views

Listen to what people in the area are actually saying

Not just listen to those who shout loudest – encourage a feeling that we’re all in it together

Tailor engagement to reach different groups

Help people do things for themselves, not do things for people

Be competent to make decisions – know about the things they are making decisions about

Be aware of their own influence in particular circles and understand how they are influenced  by influential people in the neighbourhood

Now have a look at what could localism be