Mark Stewart gives his personal view on what voters might want to consider before they vote this Thursday to elect a new local Draycott-in-the-Moors Parish Council.
Parish councils have hardly any powers, and very little money to spare, so they are not like other tiers of government.
Therefore… virtually the only thing that makes parish councils important is that they have personality – including a passionate desire to inspire their community, to listen to their community, and to lead their community.
Do we feel we have had that from Draycott-in-the-Moors Parish Council in these last years? Is fresh blood needed?
It is almost twenty years since Draycott council had an election. Four of the current council (out of seven) have never had to face the electors at all – they have actually been ‘co-opted’ on.
This is not to say that the current councillors have not done what they had to do; they seem to have all done their duties properly.
But, especially as it has no mandate, this current council does not seem to have inspired local people or created great achievements. A couple of individual councillors do some good work, but, as a team, the council just seems… tired.
At the Annual Parish Assembly on Monday night, the chairman’s ‘annual report’ was over in two minutes; because there was, presumably, not a lot to report.
This is all the more strange because this last twelve months has seen a huge impact on parish councils because of the changes brought about by the government’s Localism Bill and the new Transparency Code – but this was not mentioned at all in the report.
Councillors also complain that hardly anyone comes to parish council meetings or takes an interest – but in what way has the current council tried to encourage contact & participation? Its meetings are almost those of a select club.
It even has had to be virtually forced into openly publishing its decisions and agendas.
In fact, without the drive and commitment of local organisations like the Summer Fayre Committee, the congregations of the two churches, the Church Hall committee and the untiring energy of the VVSM action group, the wider community in Draycott & Cresswell & Totmonslow would be very under-served indeed.
In my opinion, any newly-elected parish councillor needs to be someone who will ‘step up to the plate’, as the saying goes, of the new challenges.
Is fresh blood needed? In my humble opinion again, yes.
And, after May 7th, there will be newcomers on the council for sure, because statistically that has to happen: five of the nine candidates standing are completely new faces – and there are only seven seats.
Will they be any better than the old ones? Who knows? And it is always a mistake to allow experience and expertise to flood away.
But, the government has brought in lots of new rules to try to make parish councils function in more democratic and accountable ways, and also to drag parish councils into the 21st century, so at least any new councillor will come fresh to that situation; and they will know that, under the new rules, they must try as hard as they can to communicate with the electors.
How will we know who to vote for? (See: candidates page)
It seems to me that electors will want to ask all the candidates – “How will you work to make the new parish council inspire me? Will you be open and accountable, and reach out to residents in the community and co-operate with them? Will you try to work as part of a team on the council so that it can work efficiently to ensure a better outlook for us?”
If they cannot answer those questions satisfactorily, one wonders if they should even be standing at all.
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