Why have Councillors?

Welsh Government is planning to complete a 40 year programme of reducing the number of councillors by 90%. Does it matter?

As in many walks of life, the less obvious a councillor the more effective she or he is likely to be. I have worked with councillors for many decades. I disagree with many. I like most. I respect almost all.

Let me share some experiences of the past week. I met two councillors who have been leading the governing body of brand new school. They were clearly the bridge between the community and local authority as the school was designed and built. They played their part in creating and supporting the professional leadership of a school which is now achieving well beyond expectations.

I listened to another councillor who shared the experience of working to untie the knots of Welsh Government’s disjointed application of three competing anti-poverty programmes to one small community. He could have walked away; he was in no way a responsible player, indeed he was often made unwelcome, but instead he was committed to the hard graft of making the unworkable work better.

For myself, I spent a productive day talking to parents, transport managers and bus companies to ensure that a school bus could be re-routed to avoid a new construction site. Within 24 hours we turned a hostile stand-off into a new route to school.

There are those who always believe that fewer councillors lead to higher ‘calibre’. Historically, each councillor cull leads to a lower proportion of women and a higher proportion of sharply suited individuals who are less engaged with their communities and more concerned with the next stage of a political career. Fewer councillors would be another stage in the separation of politics from people.

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