Headlines: January 4th, 2007

SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS DIFFICULTIES FACED BY YOUNG COUNCILLORS

 

More than three-quarters of young councillors find it difficult to hold down a full-time job at the same time as performing their duties as elected members of local authorities, according to a survey by the New Local Government network, which also shows strong support among those taking part for better pay and conditions.

The survey has been published alongside a new NLGN pamphlet, “Local Government: Young at Heart?” which warns that local government will go on being unrepresentative of the communities it serves unless it can attract more young people to become councillors. The survey found that 83 per cent of respondents are facing difficulty in having full-time employment as well as being councillors. Almost seven in ten of those in the survey agreed that all members should receive childcare support and be eligible for a pension scheme, while 84 per cent agreed that executive councillors should receive a salary.

The NLGN pamphlet, which is available as a free download from the organisation’s website, www.nlgn.org.uk , argues that local government is at risk of losing what it calls ‘a golden generation of young politicians’ because they are put off by unresponsive councils, the lack of career options and poor conditions. It suggests that councillors aged under 30 should be given roles similar to Government Ministers’ Parliamentary Private Secretaries, working to an Executive councillor as a way of helping them to gain better understanding of how local government works. At the same time, the pamphlet suggests, the young members should benefit from a more competitive reward system that would allow them to maintain a career outside politics as well as conducting their council duties.

Anthony Brand, the author of the report, said young councillors were the lifeblood of local government and councils needed to retain their talents to give local government a future. He said that in too many cases young councillors had to choose between staying in local government or forwarding their career or starting a family. “Better conditions for young councillors will not solve the problem in itself but will make a bold statement that society wants to keep the brightest and best young candidates in local government,” he added.