Local Voices Count

For admin-ajaxmost people, the frantic months of campaigning in last year’s General Election will all be a distant memory as the normal routine of government falls back into place, but as far as local mandates go, it can feel a bit harder to muster the same enthusiasm again. In London, which I will not have a vote in anyway, I attended a hustings event arranged by a number of familiar charities that advocate and campaign on disability issues. With the room more than full in capacity and four of the Mayoral candidates under close scrutiny, there is little doubt about the strength of feeling about matters relating to the capital.

However, as coverage is extensive for London and the devolved nations’ votes, it is much easier to neglect the importance of other English elections which will fall in just a few days this week coming. Within the area I live in, Weymouth and Portland, 12 wards will be up for grabs in the first major elections since 2012, with probable changes in Dorset’s governance in the near future meaning it may be the last election for this borough in its present form. While these matters will feel distant for most who have little engagement in politics, affairs from council tax to regeneration plans for towns like Weymouth will have an impact on all residents. A lowly 32% voted in 2012, which surely cannot be sustainable.

Local authorities have not had an easy ride in general for its many decisions across English counties. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has estimated a 27% cut in real terms spending power since 2010. Many will have seen the closure of libraries and youth centres as visible examples of the difficult choices councillors will have made in their positions. These decisions will still need to be examined in many parts after May, but the way in which they take action will entirely depend upon your vote. Good councillors should by practice keep as much party politics out of their conduct whenever possible and think in their interests of the people they serve – this includes you, as a voter, deciding which of the candidates on your ballot feel about the services that could alter depending on who is elected and if there is overall party control in the council.

Central government may dominate the headlines for the most part, but it is the decisions on a local level which will often determine the real impact of the environment which you live in. If rubbish bothers you, only voting for councillors will help to ensure services that matter most are managed effectively.

Adapted from an article published in the Dorset Echo.

Article written by Jack Welch.

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