Unsung local heroes of democracy

The polling booths and paperwork may have been packed away, and the news agenda may have moved on, but it is worth reflecting on more than just the results of May’s local elections, important as they were.

In England, this was the most complex set of elections ever delivered by our elections officers and administrators – two years of local polls in one, multiple by-elections held over because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and contests for police and crime commissioners and combined authority mayors. 

And all done in the middle of a national and international public health crisis. Councils pulled out all the stops to ensure the 6 May polls were held efficiently and were COVID-safe and secure, and I want to reiterate my thanks to everyone involved for doing such a tremendous job.

This should serve as a huge source of pride for us all in local government, and proves yet again why our democratic system is rightly held in such high esteem.

Another local democratic ‘success’ during the pandemic was the swift move to online meetings – and thanks are due in this case to the unsung heroes of council IT departments.

They have helped us keep local government’s democratic processes going, despite COVID-19 restrictions – and, in many cases, online meetings have enhanced local democracy, by allowing more members of the public to attend meetings ‘virtually’.

So, in light of the absence of any mention of this in the Queen’s Speech, the LGA continues to make the case for councils to be allowed to hold meetings remotely.

Finally, congratulations to all of you who have been elected or re-elected to serve your communities, commiserations to those who have lost seats, and huge thanks and good luck to those who are standing down. The LGA is offering support to all councils where there has been a change of political control, or a move to no overall control, and has developed a support hub for new councillors to complement councils’ induction training.

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