Headlines: April 11th, 2007



Serving councillors and former members of local authorities are being asked to give evidence to a new Commission set up to look at the barriers to a wider range of people standing for election and what incentives might help overcome them. Members of the public are also being asked for their help in a wide-ranging call for views that will help to produce a series of recommendations later this year.

The Commission on Local Councillors, to be chaired by Dame Jane Roberts, the former Leader of Camden Council, will look in detail at what motivates people to become councillors and the support they need to help do the job effectively. It will also examine the issues that discourage people such as problems in getting time off work, balancing responsibilities at home, payments and the restrictions on who can become a councillor. The overall aim is to see what can be done to attract more people into the role, especially those from groups that are currently under-represented such as women, younger people and those from minority ethnic communities.

Issues and ideas to be examined include working with businesses to promote more part-time and flexible working and encouraging companies to value people serving as councillors; a review of the time commitments needed by councillors; better childcare support; better information on how to become a councillor as well as work shadowing schemes and awareness campaigns in ethnic minority communities; more support for councillors to develop their skills for the role and the extent to which perceptions of local government stop well qualified people from standing for election.

Dame Jane said, “Councillors shape our daily lives which is why the Commission’s work to examine ways of encouraging a wider range of people to be able to be elected as councillors, increasing representation in local government and increasing engagement and satisfaction with it is so important.”

The Commission wants to hear evidence from present and former councillors and a range of other people involved in civic life, such as school governors, tenant representatives, people involved with health bodies and voluntary and community organisations, employers and even local newspaper editors. It also hopes to tap into people who are not currently civically involved to find out why. As part of this process the Commission will be hosting a monthly discussion forum at http://forum.communities.gov.uk/councillorscommission. The topic for April is ‘What motivates people to be councillors?’ The Commission will make recommendations by November.