I popped up to the BBC Television and Radio studios in White City on Tuesday morning, to take part in a studio debate on Radio 4’s flagship political programme ‘Today’ with presenters Sarah Montague (pictured above left) and Edward Stourton (pictured above right).
The independent local government Think Tank, the New Local Government Network (NLGN), has published a new pamphlet entitled ‘Local Government: Young at Heart?‘, which calls for councillors – particularly young councillors – to receive better pay and conditions. The NLGN asked me to go on the programme to talk about what my role as a councillor involves.
I have to say that there is no way on earth I would be able to finance myself as a local councillor if I did not receive some income from my councillor allowance and my full time job – and that’s what I said when I went on this morning’s programme. The retired independent councillor I was debating with strongly disagreed!
Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but it may be that in the ‘olden days’ the only people who were councillors were rich people with a trust fund to do their shopping. Well not in 2007. For this young councillor from a single parent household in Leyton, East London, I simply wouldn’t be able to afford to carry out this incredibly important role without some remuneration, to supplement the salary I receive from the full time job I still very much need to do.
If we really are serious about increasing the number of people going into local government, who come from backgrounds like mine, and if we really want to improve on the extremely unrepresentative statistics the New Local Government Network reports: that only 29.7 per cent of British councillors are women, that only 3.5 per cent come from a Black or Minority Ethnic Community, and that only 62 out of 20,000 councillors are aged under 26 – then improving conditions for councillors is going to have to become the norm – however controversial.
This morning’s programme certainly sparked a fierce debate!
What do you think?
Download the New Local Government Network’s Report by clicking here.
And listen to Tuesday’s radio debate by going to www.bbc.co.uk/today and clicking on the ‘listen again’, then the ‘Audio Archive‘ tab, then clicking on Tuesday the 2nd of January’s 8.47am clip entitled ‘Should local councillors get better pay and conditions?‘