Wednesday, 10 December 2014
As part of my role as a local journalist, I go to local council meetings.
Parish council meetings are usually fairly difficult to sit through, larger town council ones are better and county council meetings can be quite lively and exciting.
At many meetings, I am the only person below the age of 45 and I am often the only woman.
At times, they are boring.
And at other times, they are intimidating.
However, I once was in a parish council meeting in a dingy village hall and 50 emotive pensioners came in banging their walking sticks ordering the councillors to agree to fund a £10,000 road crossing for them.
The local politicians were all rather shocked at how passionate the troop of elderly people were. They may also have been scared, either way the money was released imminently.
And, this is why local politics is important. It lets old people cross roads.
After the crossing was built, a 90-year-old man said he was able to cross the road independently for the first time in years.
He could go to the shops, and for him, that was life changing. He no longer had to endure the daily tango with death as he fetched his pint of milk.
I randomly voxpopped some of my friends, ‘I don’t vote because I don’t know enough about it all, and I don’t feel like I should have a say’ was the general response.
Another train of thought was ‘I wasn’t brought up thinking about politics and now I don’t know where to start’.
Take a look around; local politics is everywhere though, from releasing funds to fixing potholes, to deciding if a big development should be built down the road potentially blighting the village, to doing more to get more working class kids into grammar schools.
Councils do really wield power.
I recently reported on a school where students voted for how they thought a pot of county council money should be spent. They had an assembly on the different options, the voting turnout was 90 per cent and they all seemed to be genuinely interested in their community and how it could be improved.
The students are now following up the projects to see how the funds they influenced are being used.
On a local level, councils should be actively trying to get young people involved in the voting process from a young age. Councils need to be made relevant.
The words of my friends really should ring a warning bell to the entire democratic process.
Unless more people turn out and vote, politicians will serve the people who do rather than focussing on each demographic.
And then, how will the councillors know that the old people want to cross the road?