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Standing for Council?

Standing for Council?It's the New Year - which often means it's time for a change or at least time for new challenge, time to try something different.

So what about standing for election to one of the Parish or Town Councils in Fylde, or perhaps standing for election to the Borough Council.

It's not as difficult as you might think.

The rough and dirty version is that you need to live, or work, or have property (which we think can include rented property such as an allotment), within a few miles of the area in which you want to stand, then you need to get a dozen or so folk to support you by assenting to your nomination and signing a form to say so, and off you go.

If you're a popular minimalist, and well known in the area, that might be all you need to do. People will know you're a good egg and they'll vote for you.

If you're a minimalist and not well known in the area, then you'll have to do some work to get yourself known, such as writing letters to the paper or doing other things that bring your name to the public's attention.

If you're more serious about standing, you'll probably produce a short leaflet about yourself and what you hope to achieve for people who elect you, and you'll assemble a team of friends who are (or need to get) fit, in order to deliver them to households in the area in which you're going to stand.

If you want to make a very determined effort to stand, you can go the whole hog and do a sample survey of homes in the area asking what people think are the important issues for that area, then see if you think there is something you can do to deal with those issues, and tailor a campaign to call for action on them - make contact with media types, draw up a leaflet explaining how you plan to go about making the changes that people want, and deliver it (and deliver a possible a second leaflet closer to the time of the election).

You can also go door to door to meet people who might vote for you and to tell them in person that you hope to be elected. The personal touch is often a good move.

And on the day of the election, you'll await the decision of the electors.

Whilst everyone starts with an equal chance, some folk are more equal than others, and some have a much easier life getting elected, but a less pleasant one afterwards.

Those who are 'more equal' include folk like newsagents, and chemists, and small local shopkeepers and other businesspeople who live in their community. Well known local teachers often do well too.

These folk are "more equal' because of what we call the 'Heinz effect'.

If someone says tin of beans, you automatically think of 'Heinz'

It's a name that's well known.

So it is with elections. If you have a name that's well known locally because people come into regular contact with you (or your name), you start at an advantage.

The ones that traditionally start at even more of an advantage are those who stand as the official candidate of a political party, where - in at least some cases - much of the hard work is done for you by party workers.

As regular readers will know, we're not enamoured of party politics at parish and borough level. We believe people should vote for the person and not for the party. But even though the status of all political parties (except seemingly UKIP) is in decline - some in very steep decline - Party membership does still carry some votes with it.

We know of (but decline to name) at least three people who were elected at what are known in civic circles as 'paper candidates' - people who signed the form and maybe got others to sign it to support their candidature, but who did virtually no leafleting or canvassing themselves, but who were, nevertheless, elected, on the back of the party name or on the back of work done by other party members on their behalf.

Whilst this might sound superficially attractive to the less enthusiastic, Party membership nearly always also brings a requirement to vote according to the party line - or you face suspension and eventual expulsion from the Party. That means sometimes (and as we have frequently reported in these pages, sometimes can mean very often), having to publicly vote in meetings for something you really don't agree with.

Being independent of party politics brings complete freedom (at least it confers complete freedom within the slander laws) to say and vote as your conscience dictates and - hopefully - as your electorate would wish.

So can you get paid for being a councillor?

The truth is that most people don't start off hoping to make money out of being a Councillor.  If you do that, then generally, you'll be disappointed. There is a basic allowance of about £3,500 a year for members of the Borough Council which is supposed to cover the time you spend at meetings and so on, and although extra claims can be made for things like mileage incurred on what are called 'Approved duties' quite a few borough councillors don't claim them, and they treat the £3,500 a year as all they take.

If you reach the heights of being a Borough Councillor who is elected to be the equivalent of a Chairman or Vice Chairman of a Committee, you also (currently) get a special responsibility allowance on top of the basic allowance. This can double what is expected of you and what you receive.

However, if you're a member of a Parish Council or  a Town Council, there is no payment, it's all voluntary. There are some instances where out of pocket expenses are reimbursed - like travelling expenses for training courses and so on.

So - with the New Year in mind - now would be a good time to think about standing if you'd ever hankered to do so.

It's an even better time now, because, as a result of the work of the Fylde Civic Awareness Group, Fylde is abandoning it's dreadful Cabinet System of operation after the election in may, and will be going back to using the Committee System to conduct its business.

This will give new Councillors a say in shaping how the Council works in the future, and will give rank and file Councillors a lot more say in decisions that are made from May onwards.

So if you've ever thought about 'putting something back' or wondered if you too could be a Councillor, now is probably the best time to think more seriously about having a go.

And, as they have done in previous years, the Fylde Civic Awareness Group has anticipated this opportunity and has organised a series of four Workshops starting next Thursday evening and running every three weeks or so until early March.

These workshops will prepare the ground for what you need to know, and give you the inside track on what it's like to be a councillor.

Even if you're not thinking of standing for election, the workshops will give an interesting insight into how a Parish, Town or Borough Council works, and about the people who are motivated to try to make life better for their electorate.

The Workshops are at the Glendower Hotel, (North Promenade, St Annes, with ample free parking) on Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 9pm. There's no need to book in advance, you can simply walk in off the street and join in.

The first Workshop ('Understanding Councils') is next Thursday (8th January) and led by former Mayor and Fylde Council Leader Paul Hayhurst. He is currently a Lancashire County Councillor, a Fylde Borough Councillor and an Elswick Parish Councillor so he is uniquely placed to explain the roles and operation of the different sorts of councils, and he will explain his experiences of working at each level. After his presentation, there will be a series of discussion groups about one of the issues arising from what he has said.

The second Workshop is on Thursday 29th January and sees three speakers - one each from the main political parties represented on Fylde, who will give their view on what it's like being a Councillor in their party. Speaking as a Conservative is Fylde Borough Cllr Richard Redcliffe from Ansdell. For the Liberal Democrats is Cllr Tony Ford who sits on both Fylde Borough Council and the St Annes on the Sea Town Council (representing Ashton Ward), and for the Fylde Ratepayers is Cllr John Davies also of Ashton Ward. He is also Group leader of the Ratepayer Councillors on Fylde Borough Council.

This selection of speakers will be able to give a good idea of what it's like being a Councillor representing political parties that are both national and local in coverage, but of significant difference is size.

The third Workshop is on Thursday 19th February, when three Independent Councillors from the more rural parts of Fylde - often where no political party has a seat - will give their experiences. The speakers are: Cllr Liz Oades who is a Lancashire County Councillor, Fylde Borough Councillor, and a Kirkham Town Councillor. she is also the nominated Leader of the Independent group of Fylde Councillors; then Cllr Elaine Silverwood who is a Fylde Borough and Kirkham Town Councillor with a solid knowledge of publicity and an interest in local businesses; and Cllr Maxine Chew who is  Fylde Borough Councillor and a member of Singleton Parish Council. These speakers will give an insight into how councillors with no party allegiance operate.

The final Workshop on Thursday 12 March will hear from two of Fylde's most senior Election Officials, Tracy Morrison (Fylde’s Director of Corporate Resources) and Hazel McNicoll, (Electoral Services Manager) - Will explain the mechanics of how to stand for election, and give some  insights into the electoral process. After their talk there will be a group discussion about how to prepare a case to be made in an election leaflet.

So, as our readers can see, this is a comprehensive introduction and guide to standing for election to one of the local councils, and it will provide a good grounding for anyone who is thinking about standing.

It will also provide introductions to some of the key people involved and who we are sure would be willing to offer further advice and information to aspiring candidates.

For more information, readers can visit the Fylde Civic Awareness Group's website at www.fylde.biz and you can follow this link to download a poster about the Workshops and to pass on to your friends who might be interested.

Standing for Council poster

Click to download the poster

 

Dated:   04 January 2015


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