Frank McDonald hit the nail on the head during yesterday’s ( (May 14th) edition of The Right Hook on Newstalk when he said that what good councils need are councillors who are articulate and free to voice people’s fears and wishes. I would add that councillors need to have the capacity to understand policy development and know how to influence that process.Independent councillors are far more ready to demand accountability and challenge policies that are not working. Party councillors are often stuck with the policies and systems of their party – they have to maintain a certain line and are far less able to challenge it.
Councils are huge service-providing organisations with significant budgets, and the freedom to ask hard questions, to demand and expect accountability and transparency, is immensely important. It is the duty of the councillor, and well within their remit, to scrutinise spending proposals and only approve those that will bring real benefit and improvement. The independent councillor can bring a particular cast of mind to this task.
Independent councillors can and should be ready to tap into their day-to-day experience of how local government is working in areas like housing, community development and local service-provision, and to advocate for the required policy change at national level. This is the under-used potential of good local government.