Local Government’s decisions often affect ordinary people’s lives on a very fundamental level. Sometimes, if you spend your time in the office, your house, or travelling between the two in a car or train shaped bubble, it might be possible to lose sight of that.
It’s one of the reasons I am strongly supportive of Councillors who live in the area they represent. I don’t think it’s the be all and end all of being a representative, or that it should be compulsory, but it would certainly be one factor for me as a voter.
At least Councillors, even those who live in a different part of the authority, have to get out and knock on doors and deliver leaflets, at election time even if not all year round. What sort of mechanisms do we use to link the experiences of residents into the knowledge and work of those council officers whose jobs don’t involve regularly getting out of the Town or County Hall?
Is it enough that they hear from Councillors and frontline staff, that they read the local paper, or that they are dragged out to some sort of local committee once an issue in their department has reached crisis point, or do we need something more? Suggestions welcome!