Here’s a summary of the Councillors chapter from our “Growing a stronger local democracy” report, published 30th June 2017.
A taster of our findings about Councillors
“Think of a network with the councillor at the centre… There’s a whole web of activity out there… and councillors are the fishermen who look after the net.” – Neil McInroy
Our citizens value the role of councillor, although many don’t fully understand what councillors do. It’s clear that citizens want more direct contact with local decision makers. We need to help citizens understand this changing and challenging role, and to encourage more people to come forward and stand as councillors. We need to build trust and show how being a councillor can enrich a person’s life, and how councillors can enrich our local communities.
A councillor is a…
Steward of place, Advocate, Buffer, Sense maker, Catalyst, Entrepreneur,
Orchestrator, First line of triage, Enabler, Conduit, Facilitator, Broker, Change
maker, Problem solver, Influencer, Negotiator, Connector, Networked leader,
Civic educator, Talent spotter, Mentor, Service co-designer and Civic builder.
It’s an ever-growing job description.
A misunderstood role
Our citizens and staff are confused about what a councillors do and what they are responsible for. There are a variety of reasons, including confusion with the MP role, a lack of visibility and accountability between elections, broken links between councillors and decision-making in the areas they represent, a lack of clear information and a lack of local civic education.
Supporting councillors, supporting communities
The principal focus of a councillor’s time and energy should be on working closely with the citizens and communities they represent. Councillors should be developing dialogue and networks in their wards, from the ground up. They should have the time and support they need to be able to do that, but the overall package of support for councillors is out of step with the changing role.
Our recommendations about Councillors
Kirklees Council should use the evidence gathered by the Democracy Commission to re-define the role profile for Kirklees councillors, so that this reflects the changing and long term expectations and needs of the role. The revised profile should include core expectations, linked to ongoing performance. These should be used to demonstrate the impact that councillors are having, particularly in their wards.
Kirklees Council should make performance evidence about what councillors do available to the public, in an easy-to-digest format.
Kirklees Council should promote the role of councillor to help Kirklees citizens understand the role and to encourage citizens to come forward and stand as councillors. We should positively promote the councillor role based on the real life experiences of our councillors, and demonstrate how being a councillor can enrich a person’s life.
Kirklees Council should promote the role of councillors to staff members in a structured and ongoing way, as part of wider cultural changes both with the council and in our communities. Our staff should understand the importance of the councillor role and how it is an invaluable asset as part of changing and redesigning services.
The Local Government Association (LGA) should develop a core national framework for councillors’ allowances, which councils can use now as a basis for determining the rates of allowances locally.
The Kirklees Members Allowances Independent Review Panel (MAIRP) should consider linking annual changes in the rate of councillors’ allowances to the pay rate for local government officers.
National government should revisit the legislation relating to councillors allowances, in light of the increased expectations now placed on the role and the tensions associated with the current approach to determining allowances.
National government, in the context of corporate social responsibility, should address the real challenges faced by councillors who are employed.
Kirklees Council should redesign support for councillors in a way that has a greater focus on their wards. This should enable councillors to provide better support for communities in developing effective facilities, programmes and social networks to improve people’s quality of life.
Kirklees Council should provide timely information and intelligence at a ward and neighbourhood level to support councillors and communities in working effectively.
Kirklees Council should ensure that councillors have the correct tools to carry out the changing councillor role. This involves:
- Building new councillor induction around the core expectations set out in the revised role profile. This should be compulsory for all new councillors but should also be open to all councillors.
- Ensuring that any councillors who hold a position of special responsibility are fully briefed about the role, the expectations and the core knowledge required to effectively carry it out.
- Implementing the findings of the councillor group who are currently looking at IT provision for councillors.
Political groups (and in particular Group Leaders and Group Business Managers) should be responsible for the personal development of their members beyond what Kirklees Council can support or provide.
Our evidence about Councillors
Local democracy roadshows
Public inquiry evidence
- Neil McInroy, Centre for Local Economic Strategies
- Dr Catherine Needham, 21st Century Councillor, University of Birmingham
- Jonathan Carr-West, LGiU
- Cllrs David Harrington and Gillian Corr, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
- Nick Booth, Podnosh
- Dominic Campbell, FutureGov
- Dr Paul Hepburn, Heseltine Institute, University of Liverpool
- Prof Colin Copus, De Montfort University and Chair of the Councillor Commission
- Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council
- Prof Andrew Taylor, University of Sheffield
- Adrian Lythgo, former Chief Executive of Kirklees Council
- Rebecca Cox, Local Government Association
- Anthony Zacharzewski, Democratic Society
- Katherine Sladden and Kajal Odedra, Change.org
- Kenny Imafidon, Bite the Ballot
- Prof Colin Mellors, Local Government Boundary Commission for England
- Kirklees Council staff survey results (PDF)
- Kirklees residents e-panel survey results (PDF)
- Kirklees Councillors survey results (PDF)
Discussions and debates
- Kirklees Youth Council
- Recently elected councillors (PDF)
- Kirklees democracy debate
- Labour group (PDF)
- Conservative group (PDF)
- Liberal Democrat group (PDF)
- Green and Independent groups (PDF)