Democracy takes hard work and active participation

Coun Christine Lawton ANL-140618-120437001
Coun Christine Lawton ANL-140618-120437001
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CABINET CALL: A weekly column written by members of South Holland District Council’s cabinet. This week with Councillor Christine Lawton, portfolio holder for housing landlord

‘Think of what our nation stands for,

Books from Boots and country lanes,

Free speech, free passes,class distinction,

Democracy and proper drains.’

For me, John Betjeman’s words still resonate today.

Books from Boots (who remembers Boots Lending Library?) are a thing of the past, though class distinction lingers.

The rest is still part of the fabric of our society. Proper drainage is the very reason we in South Holland kept our feet dry when recent floods devastated the region.

Good drainage, like good local government, does not appear out of the ether –

democracy takes hard work and active participation.

Next May there will be elections where candidates of all persuasions will seek your vote.

The voter turnout in local elections is very low, but the high turnout in the recent Scottish referendum shows that voters can be engaged if they feel they can make a difference.

In local democracy, I would argue that your vote can make a difference. Your ward member can act as a campaigner, community volunteer and watchdog and represent the interests of all electors, regardless of whether or not they voted for you.

Councillors soon discover that democracy is not an easy option. To paraphrase Churchill – it is the least worst!

As portfolio holder for housing, I have to make decisions which are not always popular, whether that be traveller sites, affordable housing or prioritising funding to maintain and increase our housing stock.

Like many members I sit on essential committees, outside bodies and partnerships and this work can cut across political boundaries.

At South Holland I am pleased that Independents and Conservatives work together in interests of the district, although we occasionally have conflicting views on how to achieve this.

When councillor Newton and I go weeding together in Spalding our conversation is generally about our respective grandsons rather than politics!

Our Councillor Development Board has invited local Year 9 children to sessions called ‘Local Democracy and You’.

We hope to share some of our experience, explain a little about our roles and hopefully let them see that we are almost real people, who happen to do ‘stuff’ which impacts on our daily lives.

I know we will enjoy it, here’s hoping that they do.