in Politics

Councillors v Postmen

I attended the LGiU’s C’llr Achievement Awards last night. A small event to celebrate the winners (and nominees) of a series of awards recognising their service to their local communities.

A few quotes from the night stuck with me:

  • Andy Sawford, the Chief Executive of the LGiU observed that being a councillor is “the highest form of community service.
  • Caroline Flint, former Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government commented that councillors are special in being “ordinary enough to be representative, but extraordinary enough to be representatives.” (Confession, she actually said that at last year’s awards, but it’s a fine bit of rhetoric that deserves repeating.)
  • Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Local Government, and a former councillor himself, celebrated that “councillors come with a passion to make a difference to their community.
  • And finally, although not at last night’s event, the RSA in their report Connected Communities (PDF) state: “more people recognise and find value in their postman than their local councillor.

The RSA’s report is quite old (it was published in 2010, although I’d not come across it until someone mentioned it to me recently) and I mention it because it is, sadly true. Yet the evidence of last night’s winners shows how much difference councillors can and do make to their communities.

This is not to belittle councillors or postmen – both have their roles – but instead to express a little sadness at the way society views or, more accurately, generally ignores those that undertake public service.

You need only take a moment to think about the huge amount of influence local councillors have over a local area, from keeping the streets clean and parks pleasant, to educating the young and looking after the elderly, it is local councillors who have the biggest direct impact on your local area.

But it often seems that they are overlooked, unless there’s something negative to say about them. And when it comes to electing a local council it’s often what’s happening in Whitehall not the Town Hall that determines people’s votes.

I know full well that, as a country, we give too much weight to the views of the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Daily Mail. I stood for election knowing that, so can’t complain. But I do wish we sometimes paid a little more attention to the positives, like the very worthy winners of last night’s awards. Congratulations to them all.

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