To be a party representative (councilor) in a municipal council is a most rewarding and challenging task for a politician. It is the party representative closest to the citizens; policies and decisions in which councilors take part directly influence people’s lives. If you as a councilor do your work well, people will have confidence in you and trust your party. You will help engage local people who want to develop their community. Councilors must remember that their mandate derives from the voters and the policies they are set to implement derive from the party.
When you work as a representative, there are several important questions you need to ask yourself. These will help you figure out why you are putting all this effort into doing what you do. Sometimes, the questions can reveal things that probably shouldn’t be a part of your motivations, even things that shouldn’t be a part of democratic work at all.
In the picture below, can you spot the question that reveals that the person is probably not that interested in the democrativ process after all?
The caucus and the portfolio committee
Every party in a local council has its own caucus – the party’s group of elected representatives. In the caucus group we decide our politics. A portfolio committee consists of elected representatives from different parties that are selected by their party to represent specific policy areas (housing, finance, etc).
Members of the caucus group and party representatives in portfolios committees are individuals with different experiences and competencies. The more efficiently we use our skills and knowledge, the stronger the party representation will be. To be as strong a party as possible, we need to work closely together, to ensure that each and every associate is included and can contribute.
Normally the party rule is that all party representatives must follow the caucus majority’s decision. We should always strive to achieve unity in our caucus group. It makes us strong and able to have real influence on development. But there may be occasions when we need to discuss how far we stretch this. Belonging to the same party doesn’t mean we always have to think the same way.
Click on the headlines to see how elected representatives deal with issues:
1 -Goals and strategies
In our party caucus we must share a vision of what we want to achieve in the council and for whom we want to do it. This is the basis for our short- and long-term political planning. Basic instruments that you need for a planning process are: mapping, goals and targeting groups.”
4 -Target – constituent group
5 -Work in the caucus
To be as strong a party as possible, we need to work closely together in the caucus, to ensure that each and every associate is included and can contribute. If every representative in the caucus can also develop as a politician and a person, it makes us stronger as a party and a collective in the decision-making process. Few citizens know who their representatives are and this worsens the sense of “us” and “them” and the distrust people may have for politicians. That means that individual politicians must be allowed to have more of their own profile, be seen and heard as individuals at the same time as we maintain the collective strength of our party.”
6 -Relations between the local municipal caucus and the local party structure
The party makes policies and determines overall programs.
Councilors represent the party in local government and are meant to implement the party manifesto and programs. At the same time councilors have powers according to the laws and constitution and are accountable to voters. This dual accountability of councilors to party and to voters sometimes causes conflict. It is important to develop clear mechanisms for accountability and monitoring between councilors and party.”
7 -Relations to the citizens
The individual citizen must be at center of every politicians’ life. Otherwise how can we claim that we represent the people? To ensure this we must work hard to plan and organize activities to interact with citizens on a regular basis. When you organize contacts with the people, it is important to be clear about the purpose of the contact and to have a clear plan for what you are going to do.
-Aim: What do I want to achieve with this contact?
-Message: What do I want to say to the people we meet?
-Target group: Who is affected by the particular issue?
-Method: What is the best method to use?
-Time: What are our timeframes and who will do what?”
8 -Ethics and morality
As representatives of a political party, our behavior isn’t just private and what we do may harm the party and politics and politicians in general. As party representatives, we need to understand that we must live up to high moral standards; we are role models.”
9 -Relations to the media
A journalist’s professional role is to present and critically scrutinize proposals so that citizens have access to more information, thereby increasing their potential to make informed decisions. The journalist’s task is to report news happenings and to critically scrutinize what goes on in society, especially matters that affect people’s lives. We must be professional and remind ourselves that it is the media’s job to scrutinize politicians and that this is a sign of a healthy democracy.
There are some rules to follow:
- Never lie.
- Stand up for what we say.
- Admit mistakes.
- Simple and straight responses. Stick to message.
- Don’t be provoked.
- Answer all questions.
10 -Contacts with public servants
We must never let public servants push us to make decisions we are not comfortable with. We must demand full information, ask questions, ensure that we have all the background, analysis, and alternatives available, before we make a decision. We politicians can never blame someone else; we must be able to defend our decisions to the citizens. If the administration dislikes a decision, they can provide new facts or information and ask that a decision be revised.”