Opinion: What sort of councillor represents you?

​If you are convicted of armed robbery, you are likely to be sentenced to eight years, serving four if you behave yourself. A councillor’s term is usually four years. What is the comparison? You don’t have to do either if you don’t want to, writes Labour Group leader Dennis Jones.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

We are about to enter the ‘silly season’ due to the local elections (at least) to be held on May 2. Even the most active and responsive ward councillors are often accused of: “We only see you at election time”.

An armed robber is looking to get rich quick at any cost. A councillor only enters the political arena to improve the lives of the people and the area they represent. Here in Peterborough, a councillor receives an allowance of a little over £11,000, leaders, cabinet members and chairs of committees receive an additional ‘special responsibility allowance’ and this varies depending on the time needed to commit to each role.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

I’ve written before how some councillors get involved in the life of the council both inside and out of the town hall. Some are active councillors in their wards, and some do little other than take the allowance. Which sort represents you? Perhaps it is time to ask.

Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)
Labour Group leader Dennis Jones (Dogsthorpe)

Every candidate standing for election will tell you they will fix the potholes, reduce fly tipping and address anti-social behaviour. I can only speak from my own personal experience as a group leader, corporate parenting committee chair and ward councillor for Dogsthorpe. I also sit on the audit committee, vice chair of Police and Crime panel, member of planning and environmental committee, vice chair of ESPO, and so on.

I sit on the North Level Internal Drainage board, the engineers and farmers in the Fens tasked with keeping our feet dry. My fellow ward councillors take part in local litter picks, food banks and food clubs whilst bringing their own life skills and professional experience to bear for the benefit of residents.

This is so important as it keeps us in touch with local concerns because we are deeply aware and concerned about national and international affairs. We discuss them in the chamber and on social media whilst making sure that our ‘day job’, making sure the bins are collected, fly tipping is cleared and addressing anti-social behaviour, gets done. As much as we may wish to, we have virtually no influence on geopolitics other than making our feelings known. Candidates who tell you otherwise are simply expressing opinions councillors often feel but without the responsibility of doing said ‘day job’ for you.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So, instead of saying ‘you’re all the same’, or ‘nothing ever changes’, why not ask your councillor and candidate what they do ‘above and beyond’ what they will receive their allowance for?

Ask questions that you, as constituents who pay for our services from your council tax, want answers to. Let them refer to other people in their parties or provide a rational argument as to what they might achieve as an independent as they will need to work with others to get things done as we are seeing in our own administration.

Councillors and candidates won’t get rich, quickly, or otherwise, by getting elected. But do please challenge their motives. Ask what they will do for the ward they hope to represent.

Most are decent, hardworking people wanting to do best for their community and, as elections loom, give them the time to explain what they want to achieve on your behalf. They deserve that – and so do you.