A message from Jackie Weaver

(153 Posts)
JuliaMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 30-Apr-21 10:52:18

2021 is the biggest local election day for decades. As well as this year's elections, all the delayed 2020 elections are happening on 6th May 2021 too. That's a whooping 5,000 local council seats up for grabs, as well as all the seats in the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments and in the London Assembly - and 39 police and crime commissioners across England and Wales. This could mean huge changes in your local areas. We asked Jackie Weaver, who made headlines when her handling of the Handforth Parish Council meeting went viral, why local councils are important to her - and to you...

"My name is Jackie Weaver and for the past 25 years of my working life I have been largely invisible to the community outside of Cheshire. Three months ago, a local council meeting that I was facilitating ‘went viral’ and almost overnight I became a household name, and the ‘poster child’ for standing up to bullying and for doing what you feel is right with quiet authority.

So why was I there?

I work for an organisation called the Cheshire Association of Local Councils (ChALC) and my role is to provide training, support, guidance and information for the 234 local councils in Cheshire. ChALC represents Cheshire’s local councils at the national level and is affiliated to the National Association of Local Councils, which lobbies central government on issues that affect the sector.

If you have seen the viral video, you might ask yourself: why would anyone want to get involved? A fair question… If local councils were always like that, I for one would not have devoted a quarter of a century to working with and for them.

Most people who sit on local councils do so because they are passionate about their local areas. I don’t know of any who do it because they just love local government itself. Your local council is responsible for a large number of local issues - many of which are very important:

- Providing services for victims of domestic abuse and other vulnerable people who need emergency housing;
- Residential and at-home care for older people;
- Services for vulnerable and at-risk children and young people;
- Some aspects of schools and education, including some aspects of provision for children with SEN;
- The maintenance of parks, open spaces and play areas;
- Community centres;
- Public sports, leisure services and recreational facilities;
- Environmental protection, including the maintenance of ponds and open spaces, and waste management and recycling facilities;
- Some arts, heritage and cultural facilities;
- The management of cemeteries and churchyards;
- Crime prevention measures;
- Libraries and any activities for children hosted in libraries; and
(of course) emptying the bins!

In addition to these and many other functions, local councils also have a vital part to play in making sure local voices are heard on wider consultations such as local plans and transport plans. Councils are consulted on all planning applications within their boundaries.

The list of things that a local council can do either alone or in partnership with others is almost as wide as your imagination BUT it needs committed, passionate and enthusiastic people to come forward and drive it.

So how can you make your voice heard?

Firstly, vote! Local councils are run by local councillors, elected every four years. I hope that you have already registered to vote (sorry - if you haven’t done so already, it’s too late for this round of elections). Have a look at what elections are taking place in your area; your county council or borough council will have comprehensive details on their websites. As well as local elections, many areas also have elections for mayors and for Police and Crime Commissioners (as well as for the national parliaments of Wales and Scotland) on 6 May.

Would you like to get involved more directly? Unfortunately, not everyone has discovered the treasures that are our local councils, so some of them will still have seats available after the election, which they can fill by co-option. Check in with your local council to find out if that is the case. That way you can become a councillor by being voted in by the existing councillors. Councillors tend to be older and male (in 2018, 63.3 percent of councillors were male and the average age was 59.4 years old). There are many reasons for that but women, especially young mums, are underrepresented.
Have a look here where you will find a wealth of information around local councils and how to get involved.

You have an important role to play

For those of you who don’t want to be a councillor, there’s still an important part for you to play in the life of local democracy.

We have had a wonderful opportunity over the past year to look into the world of local councils from the outside, via virtual meetings. These also made council activities easier to access for those who have caring responsibilities. We are doing everything we can to encourage the government to make this a permanent option because this gives so many of us the ability to look at what our local councils are doing (or not doing) on our behalf.

Commitment and enthusiasm can only take local councils so far – we also need money. Again, our local councils provide an excellent mechanism for finance. They are tax-raising bodies, so are able to tax the whole community so everyone in effect contributes to the provision that they will all benefit from.

The local council is also instrumental in supporting local community and voluntary organisations, which it does by awarding grants from the taxes they have raised. This seems inherently fair to me as it means that we are in effect end up contributing to the important work charities and organisations do that we all benefit from.

So, if you are registered to vote – use that vote! Show your local council your support or, alternatively, send a clear message that the current councillors are not representing you and vote for change. But either way – VOTE!

EDIT - Jackie will be coming onto the thread at 4pm to answer your questions! brew

Jackie Weaver is on twitter @jackieweaver

OP’s posts: |
RaskolnikovsGarret Fri 30-Apr-21 10:56:40

Thank you - will definitely be voting. Thanks for the great work you do as councillors. and for handling that infamous meeting so amazingly!

Starseeking Fri 30-Apr-21 10:58:03

Interesting insight into local council operations, thank you Jackie Weaver!

Pomped Fri 30-Apr-21 11:02:53

Jackie Weaver....you’re our hero!!!

thatonehasalittlecar Fri 30-Apr-21 11:06:19

It’s Handforth, not Handworth.

ShowOfHands Fri 30-Apr-21 11:09:27

I will of course be voting. Sadly, I live in an area where my vote will make no difference at all. The overwhelming number of votes will go to whomever represents a certain party regardless of them living nowhere near here, not knowing a thing about the place and doing zero campaigning at all. People will then complain incessantly about the councillors doing nothing but they still vote the same way. It baffles me every single time there's an election.

But I'll vote!

EssentialHummus Fri 30-Apr-21 11:13:54

Thank you Britney.

Xiaoxiong Fri 30-Apr-21 11:16:00

This is such a brilliant message. Thank you!!

TheProvincialLady Fri 30-Apr-21 11:25:20

I always always vote. Thank you Jackie, you are an inspiration.

Comefromaway Fri 30-Apr-21 11:29:31

That's brilliant. Incidentally there are at least two vacancies on Handforth Parish Council as 2 members have resigned!

Laggartha Fri 30-Apr-21 11:30:09

(((Jackie Weaver))) You have the authority here!

BringMeTea Fri 30-Apr-21 11:34:33

Great awareness raising Jackie!

IhateBoswell Fri 30-Apr-21 11:37:09

All hail Jackie Weaver 👏🏼🥳

babbaloushka Fri 30-Apr-21 11:40:07

Thank you Jackie, a wonderful role model.

Mrstwiddle Fri 30-Apr-21 11:44:10

Brilliant.

Dashel Fri 30-Apr-21 11:46:06

A wonderful post and worthwhile use of fame!

AintPageantMaterial Fri 30-Apr-21 11:50:25

Jackie Weaver, You have plenty of authority here.

thecatfromjapan Fri 30-Apr-21 11:51:01

What a great idea for a thread.

💐 @Mumsnet and Jackie Weaver.

Conkergame Fri 30-Apr-21 11:54:21

Thanks Jackie, very helpful and insightful post. I will definitely be voting!

FlibbertyGiblets Fri 30-Apr-21 11:56:09

Thank you Jackie.

ASimpleLobsterHat Fri 30-Apr-21 11:59:10

Thank you Jackie - a great message. We have no council elections here this time, but I’ll be out voting for the independent PCC candidate.

moofolk Fri 30-Apr-21 12:09:40

You do have authority here Jackie Weaver!

The authority that comes with experience.

Thank you

SofiaMichelle Fri 30-Apr-21 12:11:28

OMG! A message from the legendary Jackie Weaver!

I will be voting, thank you!

KermitLovesMe Fri 30-Apr-21 12:16:01

Thanks for the insights Jackie Weaver. I think you're a total legend.

IstandwithJackieWeaver Fri 30-Apr-21 12:21:47

Comefromaway

That's brilliant. Incidentally there are at least two vacancies on Handforth Parish Council as 2 members have resigned!

Indeed - including the Chairman.

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