What are Councillors, Local elections and what does my Council do for me?

What does my Council do?

Our local authority, South Gloucestershire Council, is responsible for the day to day running of local services and schemes that play a big part in our daily lives. The council covers a lot - from collecting our bins to building our parks, setting our speed limits to setting our council tax, funding our schools to looking after our elderly to name just a few. Not everyone has the same idea on how these services should be run, or how much money should go into providing them. That's why it's important to vote in Local Elections for someone that represents your views on these local issues. 


How does my Council work?

South Glos Council is formed of 70 Councillors, elected every 4 years by residents in their local wards. The last Council elections were in 2015, with the Tories taking 40 seats and control of the council, Liberals 16, and Labour 14. Local elections are fought under the same First Past The Post system that we use in our national Parliamentary elections, whereby individual seats are won with the highest percentage, rather than distributed by percentage of vote in a Proportional voting system. 

The council previously operated on a Committee system, whereby all Councillors join various Committees - such as Transport, Environment etc. and shape policy proposals that are then taken to Council meetings and voted on by all of Council.  

Conservatives won the vote this year to change to a Cabinet system, where a small select group of Councillors decide policy and are scrutinised by other Councillors. Greens opposed these changes.


What about MPs, MEPs, Lords etc?

Along with our local council, South Gloucestershire has 3 MPs voted in via our National elections, where the whole country go out to vote on the same day. They are supposed to represent your views on national issues, such as the NHS and setting the economic agenda for the country, but can also bring up local issues affecting their constituency with the Government. 

MEPs are elected every 5 years in under a Proportional system, where votes = representatives. We have 6 MEPs covering the South West region, and they sit in the European Parliament and vote on laws that affect the entire EU, such as the Common Agricultural Policy, Climate Change policy, and International affairs. You are lucky enough to even have a Green MEP! You can find out about Molly Scott Cato MEP and her work here: http://mollymep.org.uk/.

Lords are not voted in, but sit in the second chamber of our democratic system - the House of Lords. UK laws are debated and passed through the House of Commons, where our MPs sit, and then through the House of Lords, before they are ratified. They are appointed by Government. The Green Party has 1 representative in the House of Lords - Baroness Jenny Jones. You can find out more about her here: https://jennyjones.org/

You can access online services and find out more about the Council via the website: http://www.southglos.gov.uk/ 

You can write to your representatives at all levels via: https://www.writetothem.com/ 

As with Parliamentary elections, to vote for your local councillor you must be registered to vote. It takes less than 5 minutes and can be done here: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote