Engaging with your Councillor
Council staff hold much more information on almost any subject than councillors, so working directly with council officials can sometimes be appropriate. However, the traditional route for residents to engage with the council is through their locally elected councillors. Councillors are able to:
- Raise questions on behalf of residents, either informally or in formal meetings.
- Submit written questions to officials in council or Municipal District meetings. The questions your councillor raises on your behalf must be as specific as possible.
- Put forward a motion at a monthly council meeting, perhaps raising an issue for a resident.
Raising an issue with your councillor
Councillors have to be aware of many different local issues so it is best to enter a meeting/ write your letter with a direct 'ask', focusing on your priority issues of which you are well researched. This helps to direct the conversation and breaks down the huge issue of climate change to make it something easier to take action on. It is important to remember that councillors often have another part time job alongside their role so making climate change ‘manageable’ can generate more effective action.
Researching the issue you want to raise with your councillor is vital. We suggest you make a short A4 'fact sheet' to provide a quick brief for your councillor to aid your discussion. Later, if your councillor agrees to speak on the issue publicly, you can provide them with more in depth research so they feel confident enough to do so.
As a local resident, you are free to contact your councillor directly by email or phone to raise a specific issue of concern. Your councillor's contact details can be found on their website. Another option is attending a councillor's surgery, which is usually once a month. This is an informal meeting where you can raise an issue of concern with your councillor. The time, date and location of their surgery can be found on their website. It is a meeting such as this where a short and concise 'fact sheet' could be really useful in raising your councillor's awareness.
Your access to council members
Councillors become more aware of local issues by attending local events. Invite your councillor to attend or speak at a community event.
You can build relationships with specific cabinet members ‘behind the scenes.’ Councillors are allowed to make individual decisions rather than voting with their party so raising awareness of issues with specific cabinet members can have great benefits in pushing an issue forward.
The public has good access to work with Senior Policy Officers through writing directly to them. Instead, you can ask your councillor to forward your letter to the Senior Policy Officer. In this way it raises your councillor's awareness of the issue also even though you have direct access to write to them as an individual. You can ask your councillor to go with you to meet the Senior Policy Officer or go with you on your behalf.
You can view council meeting agendas, minutes and reports publicly on your local council’s website.
You can also attend most council meetings, and they often have time put aside for public questions which they schedule in advance of the meeting.