Representing our Communities

June 11, 2018 9:00 AM
By Pam Walshe, for Sevenoaks Liberal Democrat Councillors

Liberal Democrats are very clear - the whole point of being a councillor is to represent your community. That's what the job is about, and it's much more important than following a party line or loyalty to a group.

Being an effective representative means you have to work hard to keep in touch with a range of local opinions, and to balance competing views. Sometimes residents can disagree quite vocally and you have to weigh up whether you are being lobbied by a truly representative voice.

We try to do that through newsletters delivered to the areas we represent, asking for views on what you think is important. That gives us a good base for arguing on behalf of our constituents.

Also we're able to guage opinion, and test ideas, using social media. On issues like planning, traffic, public transport and safer streets this can uncover new issues that need action.

Most of us who are councillors at any level, parish, town, district, know that it's much easier to represent your community if you are part of it. Links to different groups helps you understand what really matters.

The main barriers to doing a good job as a representative comes from the over politicisation of local government, and party machines which are too powerful. That can make it harder for individual councillors to be heard - and can squeeze out genuinely independent voices.

The Cabinet system of decision making at District and County level concentrates too much power in too few hands. It reduces the influence of backbench councillors, who are often closest to their communities. That's why Liberal Democrat led councils like Maidstone often don't use it.

But the best way to represent a community is to empower people to find their own voice. That way nothing can stop them.

Sevenoaks Lib Dem Councillors 2018