When local issues don’t align with the local council that is up for election

Such as potholes (county council) results in defeats for councillors who had no influence on the repair programmes.

This came up from Ben Page of Ipsos Mori

Let’s have a closer look

  • Condition of roads – County councils
  • Affordable decent housing – District/borough councils (Incl. Cambridge City Council)
  • Health – Local NHS organisations
  • Wages/Cost of Living – various
  • High streets – District/Borough
  • Cleanliness of streets – District/Borough
  • Crime/Anti-social behaviour – Police & Courts (with a bit of #localgov thrown in).
  • Homelessness/poverty – District/Borough
  • Public transport – Combined authority (Buses), District/Borough (taxis), County (Cycling)
  • Teenagers (out of school facilities for…) – County
  • Traffic – Highways England & County
  • Social Care – County
  • Local environment – District/Borough
  • Schools – The Regional Education Commissioner/Dept for Education/Academy Chain
  • Sports & Leisure – District/Borough
  • Culture – District/Borough

The thing is, we know that central government grants have been cut back significantly, along with very limited powers for councils to raise revenue from streams independent of ministerial patronage.

Above – source: House of Commons Library

To what extent are councils and councillors in control of the decisions that electors will hold them accountable for in just over 2 weeks time? Furthermore, note healthcare in that list of issues which is outside direct local council control. We know locally in Cambridge that there is not an NHS dentist available within about 25 miles of our city. This is something the county Healthwatch is now reporting on. And it’s not only dentists. It’s GPs/doctors’ surgeries too. The next meeting for Healthwatch covering Cambridge is the Cambridge and South Cambs Health and Care Forum on 01 June 2022.

Cambridge’s three manifestos:
South Cambridgeshire’s three manifestos

So…still a few more to come.

Why informed manifestos are important – even if it is a very basic one

Amongst other things, it introduces the political party to the voters and informs them of both why the party exists, as well as what the party – if elected to govern the council, will do with revenue raised from local taxation amongst other things. This matters in a city with a high turnover of residents.

It also reflects my own personal belief that candidates standing for election – especially for political parties, should be prepared to have at least one short introduction video produced for their campaign. Not least because it enables them to explain themselves to the voters in their own words and voices. Have a look at these from 2017 that I filmed for free to encourage as many candidates from as many parties to take part as possible. They all follow the same template so there is a level playing field, and are not allowed to mention any of their opponents (thus it keeps their video positive):

“Hello, my name is A, and I am standing for Party B in Ward C at the D elections on date E.

“The reasons why I am standing for elections are:

  • Reason 1
  • Reason 2
  • Reason 3

So please vote for me, A of Party B on Date E.”

Aiming for around 60-90 seconds, for even the most fair weather of voters, it’s enough for them to form a judgement on whether a candidate is worth voting for. In the world of work – or even a social event, think how long it takes for you to judge whether you want to get to know someone or not. It’s not the length of a 1 hour documentary!

Note that the reasons candidates give in their intro videos can also help shape debates in campaigns rather than simply reacting to what a high profile campaign group, or a particularly small but vocal group of individual residents might see as the most important issue on the doorstep. One of the things I found in 2014 with Puffles’ campaign (how does it look nearly a decade on?) was learning from audiences that everyone else had their own passions and obsessions on how to improve things that did not align with mine – and that we were given two ears and one mouth in those proportions for a reason!

For local campaign groups, the best thing you can do in my experience is to organise a hustings/public debate on the theme of your campaign for candidates, with a competent & neutral chair, lots of local publicity, and someone who can film, record, live-tweet/report from the event. At general elections Cambridge’s environmental groups often get together for a shared hustings. See the playlist from 2015 event at Anglia Ruskin University here.

“Can you film a video for my campaign?”

These days I have to charge £50 per intro video, and am also extremely limited on mobility as I recuperate from my recent stay in hospital. (So you’ll need to provide transport – and I can’t really go that far outside of the city as post-exertional malaise from travel means I end up having to spend the following day in bed recuperating too). It’s a pain because ***I really miss filming hustings*** – especially when the candidates are unfamiliar with each other and there are many people in the audience who have never been to one before. (I’m at antonycarpen [at] gmail [dot] com)

My offer is the same for all candidates in & around the city. Furthermore, I’m a bit of a perfectionist with intro videos. If I have to film 15 takes before we get it right, we film 15 takes. This is because in the current political climate people assume the worst about politicians and candidates standing for public office. If a local electorate sees a set of videos from candidates all of whom have given their best, speaking passionately about their community and the issues they care about, it might go some way to reversing that trend – at least locally. Furthermore, the videos are good practice for being able to deal with ‘off the cuff questions’ – because you’ll become familiar with *your* top three reasons for standing for public office – even if you are a ‘paper candidate’. (I think we should move away from having such candidates and try to inspire people to be passionate about making our communities better places. Especially given what we’ve collectively been through over the past decade or so.

And for voters…

Go to https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ and type in your postcode to see who is standing for election in your ward/neighbourhood.

Above – https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/ by https://democracyclub.org.uk/ which makes it easy for voters to get in touch with the candidates standing for election. Once the voters know about their candidates, they can cast an informed vote based on their judgement of what they have heard and read. What that judgement is, is none of my business. What conversations they have with candidates is none of my business. In my experience, the more competent candidates welcome the questions and scrutiny from their local residents. And if they can become inspired as a result, maybe we can rebuild and strengthen our democracy from the low point that it is currently in.

Food for thought?

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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