Thursday, 25 June 2009

Should councillors be full time?

Every now and then this subject comes up. David Bartlett on his Dale Street Blues blog raised this the other day (albeit focusing more on what Councillors are paid).

Admittedly when I am doing the 5 30 am casework e mails so I stand a fighting chance of getting to work on time the thought of being a full time Councillor appeals.

But if no elected members were in other employment we would lose a lot.

I'll give you an example. Last night I was at a Select Committee where among other things we discussed HR, health and safety, debt and benefits and students and Council Tax. Our discussions were helped hugely by the fact that among the Councillors were people whose professional employment gave them experience and expertise of parts of these areas. They were able to bring a perspective to the debate that informed common sense may not have.

Now you could argue that it is possible to make yourself an expert by research. And certainly many councillors develop a specialist area and research it. But the real world experience is so very very useful.

Being in employment elsewhere also means you keep a real world connection. Now I know that we all do a lot of talking to residents, joining in things, sharing ideas etc and that is all great. For the most part we live in or near the wards we represent and we are with constituents every day. But it is so very easy, if you do nothing but politics, to lose some of the real world perspective. If nothing else those Councillors with jobs are better at ensuring that meetings are accessible to working people than those without!

That's not to say that everyone has other employment. Some Councillors are retired. Others have huge voluntary work commitments which are just as important as paid work. But a situation in which everyone regarded themselves as solely a politician would, at local level, be a great loss I think.

1 comment:

David said...

Hi Paula,
Thanks for the link. Although I may have advocated councillors being paid more, I still can't make my mind up whether councillors should be full time. If there were the numbers would have to be drastically cut. It strikes me that the current half way house may not be perfect, but is probably the best least worst solution (if that makes sense). Dare I mention the words elected mayor?