Celebrating Local Democracy Week 2012
Published on 17th October 2012
Taking an active part in decision-making
Local democracy plays a major role in the community and every year, European Local Democracy Week encourages people to get involved.
Some ways to get involved in the work of Cheltenham Borough Council are:
- Come to public meetings
- Attend council events
- Take a look at the council's website, facebook and twitter pages
- Participate in surveys and consultations
- Vote in elections
Of course, the best way for many people to get involved is to put themselves up for election. Local Councillors are elected by the community to decide how the council should carry out its various activities. They represent public interest as well as individuals living within the ward in which he or she has been elected to serve a term of office.
They have regular contact with the general public through council meetings, telephone calls and some councillors may hold surgeries. Surgeries provide an opportunity for any ward resident to go and talk to their councillor face to face.
Councillors are not paid a salary for their work, but they do receive allowances. By law, all members of the council are required to complete a register of interest form, the details of which are available for inspection upon request to democratic services.
So what is it like to be a councillor? Councillor Andrew Lansley explains:
The thought of becoming a councillor had never crossed my mind until a chance meeting with our local MP.
I was asked to help co-ordinate a parliamentary event to help celebrate young people and music.
It wasn’t too long until our MP asked if I’d ever thought about being a councillor over a cup of coffee. Of course, my answer was “no” as I’d never even considered that I had the experience, skills or understanding to be suitable for such a role. This led me to my first mini revelation about becoming a councillor which is simply that there is nothing that can truly prepare you for being a councillor.
Luckily, it turns out that the same core skills for being an effective councillor are consistent with those of being a decent human being: compassion, sensitivity, patience and - most importantly - being prepared for hard work.
I felt that my experience of living in my ward would stand me in good stead to really understand the problems faced every day by my residents.
Every single thing I had written in campaign literature was based around the problems we faced as a community, offering assistance to residents and updating them on key issues that affect us in St Paul’s.
You are equipped with the knowledge, contacts and systems to directly help people in need and this is one of the most empowering feelings you can ever experience.
I find that community support is the biggest factor in effecting change and I hope through developing this sense of community - complete with tangible and measurable outcomes - I can help create a St Paul’s of which we can all be proud.