Headlines: July 8th, 2008

Almost half the people who responded to a survey by London councils incorrectly believe that their local council runs the police and hospitals. Only two in five people know which political party runs their own local council, and over 90 per cent of Londoners don’t know the name of their council’s leader.

The results also showed that many people were confused about the role of a councillor. While 71 per cent of people know that councillors receive some payment for their council work, 52 per cent wrongly believe they must represent a political party and 32 per cent think they must hold a formal qualification. 36 per cent of people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds feel they know about their local council compared to 47 per cent of white people.

Despite this low level of understanding, one in four people questioned said they would be interested in standing for election as a local councillor. Lack of time and a lack of knowledge about the role of a councillor are the main reasons cited by those not interested in standing for election. Exactly half of those surveyed said that they would be encouraged to stand if they thought they could really make a difference.

The survey also showed that 29 per cent of Londoners have volunteered time to a club, society or charity in the last year; and 31 per cent have contacted their local paper, MP or councillor or attended a protest meeting about an issue affecting their local community.