Men and women from all walks of life become councillors

Returning Officer will encourage people to consider standing for election

With local elections in East Devon taking place on 7 May (coinciding with the date for the General Election), Returning Officer Mark Williams will shortly be embarking on a mini tour of the district to explain the procedures for standing as candidates for towns, parishes or the district council.

The events will be in Axminster, Cranbrook, Exmouth and Honiton.

The roadshows are a repeat of an initiative Mark has undertaken every four years in the run-up to local elections to make people aware that they could play an active part in local democracy either representing their town or parish or one of the 32 wards on East Devon District Council.

The aim is to inform people about the need for new councillors to come forward, the process that is followed and the timetable for nominations. He said:

If you care about the area that you live or work in and the issues facing local people, you could be a councillor.

Perhaps you enjoy reading the local newspaper and often have a strong opinion on the issues you read about. You may enjoy talking to friends and colleagues about what’s going on in the area. You may feel that certain sections of the community or people who live in a particular neighbourhood are getting a raw deal and need stronger representation.

Research tells us that people are most concerned about issues such as crime, schools, transport and the environment. Your local council can make a difference on all these issues and many more, and so can you as a local councillor.

Make a difference

According to the Electoral Commission, there are many reasons why people decide to become a local councillor. These include:

• Wanting to make a difference and be involved in shaping the future of the local community

• Being concerned about their local area and wanting to ensure that the community gets the right services

• Wanting to represent the views of local people and ensure that community interests are taken into account

• Wanting to pursue their political beliefs

• Wanting to contribute their business or professional skills

• Concerns about one particular issue

• As an extension of what they are already doing through a political party, trade union, charity, voluntary group or school governing body – becoming a councillor can be the next step.

The Electoral Commission says that groups made up of diverse individuals tend to make better informed decisions. It’s important that councils have councillors who not only reflect and represent the communities they serve, but also have a broad range of skills and life experience.

You don’t have to be highly educated or have a profession. Skills gained through raising a family, caring for a sick or disabled relative, volunteering or being active in faith or community groups can be just as valuable.

Support and training

Don’t worry if you don’t feel that you currently have the skills or confidence to be a councillor. All councils provide support, information and training for new councillors.

The sessions where Mark Williams will be talking about the role of local councillors take place on the following dates and at these venues:

Exmouth Tuesday 20 January 6.30 - 7.30pm at Exmouth Town Hall, Exmouth, EX8 1AW

Cranbrook Thursday 29 January 5.30 - 7.00pm at Cranbrook Market, Younghayes Centre, Younghayes Road, Cranbrook, EX5 7DRY

Honiton Monday 2 February 6.30 - 7.30pm at The Beehive, Dowell Street, Honiton, EX14 1LZ

Axminster  Thursday 12  February 6.30 – 7.30pm at the Senior Citizens’ Centre Old Courthouse, Church Street, Axminster, Devon, EX3 5AQ

With the General Election taking place this year on the same date, it’s also vital that as many people as possible use their right to vote by ensuring their name is on the Electoral Register.

The Electoral Commission is running a national campaign to encourage people to sign up through the new Individual Elector Registration (IER) system, with the message: ‘Your vote matters; make sure you’re in’. 

National Voter Registration Day and Overseas Voter Registration Day is on Thursday 5 February. 

For further information about the roadshows or becoming a councillor, please telephone: 01395 571695