Local government is supposed to be close to the people, really local representation. So why does any discussion about local government elicit a collective yawn? Here are three possible reasons. Feel free to add more.
- 1. Low keyed campaigning – many people get to know their constituency representatives and Members of Parliament during the frenetic period of campaigning for general elections. There is no such high profile campaigning for local government elections and as a result, that initial period of visibility is lacking. Election day comes and goes without most people ever knowing who was running to represent them.
After election visibility – after the very low-keyed election the councillors are often not as visible as Members of Parliament. Some MPs have newsletters, or other ways of reaching out to constituents. How many councillors do likewise? How often do you see councillors attending church services or the other community events that help to raise a representative’s profile? I’m not saying it never happens, but I can tell you that I have lived in at least five constituencies in three parishes over the years. In all cases I knew and saw my MP, but never ever, before the present, can I recall a councillor being very visible. Let’s be honest. I usually didn’t know who he/she was.
- Irrelevancy – the very issues that local government is supposed to be dealing with are badly managed. Community roads, parochial water supplies, managing the process of building approval and town planning – the councils often seem to suck at this. The roads are full of potholes, water supply problematic and as for the chaka-chaka process of urban planning, and the total inability to prevent zoning breaches – forget it. If you’re not making a difference in people’s lives, why should they care about you?
Where do we go from here, as the song goes? Next time for that!