Posted by: iangilbert | June 21, 2010

So what do councillors actually *do*?

One of the things that never fails to surprise me is how little many people know about how politics works. I once told a friend of mine that I’d been selected by the local Labour Party to stand for council and that I had a good chance of winning. The response was something like ‘oooh does that mean you’ll be off to Westminster?’

People see MPs on the news, and parliament is often written about and discussed, so people might pick up some sort of idea about what MPs do even though they might never have sat down and learned about it. Local politics is not covered in quite same way. Local papers might mention that a Council is doing this, or a local politician has said that, but there is no analysis, investigation or explanation of the process. I don’t blame local newspapers for this (I’m not convinced an in-depth analysis of the council’s T Government & ICT strategy working party would help the Echo’s circulation much!) but it does leave a small though important gap in our democracy.

My personal feeling is that councillors either avoid accountability for their decisions or get blamed for things that are completely beyond their control. Neither is helpful to the good running of  a multi-million pound corporation that is supposed to be providing vital local services. (At this point I should mention the local bloggers who are doing their best to fill this gap, Councilbust provides the most comprehensive reporting of local politics in this area, YourThurrock is another example of quality local journalism.)

So I hope that in the course of writing this blog, we’ll be able to explain more about what a councillor actually does.


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