The independent London newspaper

Full-time councillors are not good for democracy

31 October, 2019

Camden Town Hall in Pancras Square

• WHILE I do not at all begrudge our hard-working councillors a rise in their allowances after nearly a decade when the allowance has been frozen, I urge caution at any move that promotes councillors working full-time in their role, (Senior councillors under fire over ‘inflation-busting’ pay increases, August 22).

Remember that councillors are non-executive: their role is to represent their constituents, to work closely with local communities and to make decisions on the strategic direction of a local authority. They should not be a separate political class. Even council leaders should not be required to work full-time in their position.

Why? Because if councillors are expected to be full-time, then an even narrower group of people will stand for election in the first place.

And, once elected, full-time councillors may well have too much to lose in leaving office and stay too long when, in any healthy local democracy, we need reasonable fluidity in to and out of elected office.

A balance is obviously required but in order to attract new talent and fresh thinking – and open up the opportunity of the fullest expression of political citizen­ship more widely – some councillors have to leave.

If it is too difficult to leave, we run the risk of silting up local democracy. Some areas of the UK have seen precisely this. Please not in Camden.

Former Chair of the Councillors Commission (England and Wales)
Leader of Camden Council (2000-2005)


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