The benefits of diversity in local elections
The ordinary elections for parish and town councils are rapidly approaching, and time is running out to attract new people to stand. Cara Stobart, County Officer, discusses why diversity in elections is important to communities.
Why is diversity important for parish and town councils?
Having a diverse council helps ensure that the needs and interests of all members of the community are represented and considered when making decisions. Being diverse helps boost a council’s credibility and legitimacy, as people are more likely to have confidence in a council that reflects the diversity of the community it serves.
For councils to represent and serve their communities effectively, councils should strive to include people from a variety of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Different groups have difference experiences, priorities, and ways of understanding issues. Being able to use a range of perspectives helps prevent a council from having blind spots and ensures decisions are fair and inclusive.
By promoting diversity, a council can also foster a culture of inclusivity and equity in the wider community, ensuring that all voices are heard and valued.
There are five key advantages to diversity on councils:
- Better representation: A diverse council can better represent the needs and interests of the entire community, including underrepresented groups, ensuring that all voices are heard and considered.
- Increased engagement: When people see themselves represented on the council, they are more likely to be engaged in democratic processes. This can lead to increase voter turnout, participation in meetings, and a stronger sense of community involvement.
- Improved decision-making: A diverse council brings a variety of perspectives and experiences to the table, which can lead to more well-rounded and informed decision-making.
- Increased legitimacy and trust: A diverse council can increase the council’s legitimacy and trustworthiness among the community, as people are more likely to have confidence in a council that reflects the diversity of the community.
- Enhanced creativity and innovation: A diverse council can bring new and innovative ideas to the table, leading to more creative solutions to community problems.
Attracting people to stand for election – Great candidates can come from anywhere!
For those not already in the sector, the world of parish and town councils may seem distant and complex. People might even have a picture in their mind of the kind of person who becomes a councillor, and incorrect ideas about what your council does and the activities they could contribute to if they became involved.
These assumptions might be hazy, but their impact can be very real, preventing people in your community who might make great councillors from coming forward as a candidate. With elections imminent, now is the time to try and break down some preconceptions and help every member of your community to see themselves as a potential councillor.
When preparing for the elections, it’s worth remembering that you’re not just encouraging candidates to stand to become a councillor anywhere, you’re encouraging them to stand for your council.
One of the best ways to encourage people to stand for election is to promote what your council does for your community, and the kind of activities new councillors could be a part of. Don’t be afraid to shout about your council’s achievements and put a human face to the people who have made those achievements happen. Showing that your council already has councillors with different experiences and viewpoints can help encourage potential candidates to see themselves in the role.
The procedures and responsibilities of being a councillor are important, but a more powerful way to appeal to potential candidates can be to emphasise the feeling of achievement and of working together to make life better in your community. When reaching out to find potential candidates, it can be helpful to look where you might find people who are already minded to help their community but aren’t aware that becoming a councillor is an option to do this: community groups, charities and social clubs can be great places to find community minded candidates.
Now is the time to reach out to those potential councillors in your community and give them the information they need to make an informed choice to stand for election. NALC’s Make a Change campaign has some great resources to help with councillor recruitment.