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Survey hopes to identify reasons for Eden’s Democratic Deficit

Graphic of election candidates speaking at a lecturn.Eden District is one of the areas of the UK with the highest number of uncontested seats at local elections. A Scrutiny Task and Finish Group made up of District Councillors is now investigating what perceived barriers there may be that are preventing people who are passionate about their local communities from standing for election.

An online survey has been set up by the Scrutiny Task and Finish Group which they are hoping local people can complete over a period until 5 December 2018. Hard copies of the survey are also available at the reception areas of Town Hall and Mansion House in Penrith and Local Links Centres in Alston, Kirkby Stephen, Lazonby, Shap and at Appleby and Penrith Library.

District Councillor Lissie Sharp (Labour/Alston Moor) who is Chairing the Task and Finish Group said: "I am very keen to look at how representative our Council is; it is so important that local government truly reflects the communities that we have been elected to represent; it needs to be inclusive so that we are able to make the best possible decisions for everyone."

The Scrutiny Task and Finish Group are also speaking to local political groups and other stakeholders to see how more people can become engaged in standing for election locally.

In Eden District, at the 2015 local elections only 19 seats out of 38 were contested and at parish council level only 11 elections took place within the 53 parishes. More people are needed to stand as councillors as the area has a Democratic Deficit. The area needs more representatives to help improve the quality of life for local people.

To be a District or Parish Councillor you must be:

  • Aged 18 or over on the day of nomination;
  • A UK, Republic of Ireland, EU or qualifying Commonwealth citizen;

And meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Be registered as an elector (and will continue to be) in the District; or
  • Have lived in the District for the past 12 months; or
  • Have occupied as owner or tenant any premises or land in the District for the past 12 months; or
  • Have had your main place of work in the District for the past 12 months.

You can’t stand for election if:

  • You work for Eden District Council;
  • You hold a politically restricted position for another local authority;
  • You are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order;
  • You have within five years before the election been convicted in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man, of any offence that carries a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not) for a period of not less than three months without the option of a fine; or
  • You have been disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1983 for corrupt or illegal practices.

What does being a Councillors involve?

The role requires commitment, hard work and balancing the needs and interests of residents, with the political party you may represent (if any) and the Council.

This will all make legitimate demands on your time (could be from 5-20 hours per week), on top of the demands that may already exist in your professional and personal life. Before considering becoming a Councillor you may wish to discuss this with your friends, family and your employer (if employed) to make sure they understand these demands. You will need their support as you’ll have to spend some of your spare time on Council business.

What is expected of a Councillor:

  • Representing the ward for which they are elected
  • Decision-making
  • Developing and reviewing Council policy
  • Scrutinising decisions taken by the Council’s Executive
  • Regulatory, quasi-judicial and statutory duties such as planning and licensing committees
  • Community leadership and engagement

Do Councillors get paid?

Councillors do not receive a salary, but they do get a Members allowance in recognition of their time and expenses incurred while on Council business.

How do Councils work?

Local authorities make decision on behalf of local communities. They are led by democratically elected councillors who set the vision and direction of the Council. Eden District Council has a cabinet system, with an elected Executive, who decide policy and make decisions which other Councillors then exam in detail.

Councils play a big part in the local economy and influence the lives of people who live or work in the area by the services they deliver on their behalf (see what services Eden District Council provides). A large proportion of the work Councils do is determined by central government, but the style, political leadership and approach to delivering services is made up by the knowledge and commitment of Councillors.

Council services are mainly funded through payments from central government and the collection of Council Tax.

To find out more about becoming a Councillor

Call the Elections Team at Eden District Council on 01768 817817 or email: elections@eden.gov.uk or visit www.eden.gov.uk

Additional information about becoming a Councillor is available from the:

ENDS