Payhembury Parish Council is about to co-opt a new councillor and has been very pleased to have 4 candidates, including 3 carried over from a previous co-option in the summer. They’ve been delighted to have so much interest and their clerk, Dawn Chamberlain, explained the reasons behind it:
Since I took over I’ve really pushed to improve communication from the Parish Council to the parish. I average 3-4 articles a month in the Parish Paper (max so far is 7) when my predecessors maybe did 2-3 a year. I’ve had quite a few parishioners tell me that they appreciate knowing what is going on.
One of our Councillors has also set up a parish facebook page – it is a closed group but for anything to do with the parish. I often post things on there – messages from East Devon District Council and Devon County Council as well as things the Parish Council is doing. Our webpage went live the day I took over and I’ve spent a lot of time improving and adding to that as well. Hopefully tomorrow they will agree to a Twitter account that I can link automatically to the website so we can put out more info to a wider audience.
So I think it is probably down to the Parish Council being more visible and people being aware that things are happening. The new candidate for tomorrow night has definitely applied because of an idea that is being discussed tomorrow night about the possibility of providing allotments, a car park and a football pitch (they are completely opposed to the idea). The others however have been saying they would like to get more involved for some time, before this idea was raised.
A good range of candidates gives the council more choice when co-opting, allowing them to identify someone with useful skills. Payhembury is a great example of how increased engagement with the community encourages the public to get involved. Controversial topics within the parish often bring forward people who feel strongly about the future of the area, and it can be so useful to have that enthusiasm in your council.
Following a co-option, we’d recommend that councils try to harness the passion of unsuccessful candidates by considering if there is another way they could be involved; perhaps by joining a working group or getting involved in neighbourhood planning.
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