Jacoby Poulain: Fancy being a councillor? You can

By Jacoby Poulain

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The Local Government Commission has decided that in the 2013 local government elections Hastings District Council will retain 14 councillors and a mayor.

The only question that remains is who will these be? It could be you.

It's important that councils have councillors who reflect and represent the communities they serve. Throughout my first term I've found being a councillor a hugely fulfilling role. I've also found that some people have little knowledge of what a councillor actually does.

If you wish to learn more about what a councillor does so as to make a better informed decision on voting later this year or perhaps you're considering standing for election, here's a few snippets to help.

What do councillors do?

Councillors are elected by their community to represent community views on the council, provide local leadership and make sure local needs are met. They set the vision and direction of the council and employ the executive to implement and administer.

They allocate resources, develop policy and review the council's performance in relation to delivering services and other matters.

What do councils do?

This depends on the type of council. There are several types of local council in Hawke's Bay, for example regional, district, and city councils.

A large proportion of the work councils do is determined by central government and, depending on the type of council, can include a range of services such as: education and learning; waste collection; recycling; roads and street lighting; arts, sports and culture; environment; planning and regulation; transport; economic and social initiatives and housing.

Activities are mainly funded through rates and some central government payment.

Do you need special skills or experience?

It's important that councils have councillors who together have a broad range of skills and life experience. You don't have to be highly educated or have a profession. Skills gained through raising a family, caring for a sick or disabled relative, volunteering or being active in faith or community groups can be just as valuable.

While you don't need any special qualifications to be a councillor, having good communication skills and the ability to engage well with the local community will go far. Problem-solving, analytical and organisational skills will also help, as will the ability to work as part of a team.

Time expectation?

Currently the role is a three-year commitment. How much time a councillor spends on duties within this is largely discretionary and will depend on the particular commitments taken up however generally there are certain mandatory minimums. This role could equate anywhere between 10 hours a week to close to full-time should you so wish.

As with most things in life, what you get back will depend on how much you put in.

Payment?

Councillors receive remuneration or payment for their services and commitment. Each council has its own rate and can be contacted for specifics.

Why do it?

I would suggest most councillors initially stand for election due to some driving force whether that is to represent specific views or interests, wanting to make a difference or seeking to ensure accountability of government spending and duties. For me it was a passion for the empowerment and advancement of people and communities. You may have your own driving reason or thoughts.

By no means is anything said here intended to take away from current standing councillors and elected members - I respect all of them.

Rather, this is intended to promote the participation and education of all in our political system, which I believe is a powerful vehicle of social and economic advancement.

Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere Ward councillor.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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