An investigation for Blog Preston has shown over half of the city’s councillors do not live in the wards they represent.Advertisement
Following the local elections earlier in May the addresses of all successful candidates and current councillors were mapped against ward boundaries.
Local council elections are a chance for communities to elect a direct representative who will bring their issues to the attention of the wider area.
What are often mocked as menial duties are important civic ones. Are the bins not being collected in Tulketh? Are the pavements a mess in Deepdale? Your councillor is often the person to turn to.
After the latest election, 53% of councillors do not live in the ward they represent. This figure has increased from 50% before the last elections.
The headline figures
• Seven out of Preston’s 22 council wards have no councillors that represent the ward live within it.
• 17 wards have at least one councillor that does not live in the ward.
• Only five wards are comprised entirely of councillors that are residents.
• In total 30 out of Preston’s 57 councillors do not live in the wards that they represent.
The map below shows the council ward boundaries in Preston and the place markers show where councillors live. Addresses and contact details are taken from the council’s website or ballot papers and every attempt has been made to verify them as correct. You can select a ward using the drop-down box. This gives the clearest indication of where councillors are living in relation to their ward. Some may live 100 metres outside the ward boundary, some might live 5 miles.
But what difference does this make? BlogPreston spoke to some of the city’s councillors.
Larches is one of Preston’s seven wards without any councillors living in it. Labour councillor Samuel Gardiner does not think it makes a difference to how effective he is in his role:
“I wouldn’t say it makes a difference at all. Larches is a very big ward, it covers a large geographic area so if I lived at one end of
it, I wouldn’t immediately be aware of the issues at the other end of it.
“I’m in the ward regularly, I wouldn’t say daily but probably about two or three times a week and of course I get calls from residents who tell me what’s going on.
“None of the councillors who represent Larches live in the ward but we visit regularly and we can get there in 10 minutes if there’s anything that needs urgently addressing. Phil Crowe and Mark Yates will both be retiring soon and I’ll be finishing university so we’ll have a lot more time to give to the ward.
“I decided to represent the area after being Phil Crowe’s campaign manager; getting him elected in the byelection and through meeting residents and understanding their issues. The Liberal Democrats who were in there weren’t doing hardly anything. One of them lived up in Cumbria and the other in Blackpool and I thought I could do a lot better job than them.”
Drew Gale is one of two Labour councillors for the Town Centre ward. Of the current councillors he lives the furthest away from his ward and is the only councillor to not live within the city council boundary. Drew believes this does not affect his ability to perform council duties says if anything Preston has become more representative:
“It doesn’t affect my ability to be a councillor at all. It takes me all of 12 minutes to drive from Warton to the city centre and I work there so I’m there every day. A lot of councillors don’t live in the wards they represent but it doesn’t stop us working our butts off.
“The way the Labour party in the city operates is that party members select who they want to represent the ward. When the seat became available I was selected by party members who live in the Town Centre ward to represent them.
If you want to talk about representation, look no further than the Liberal Democrats who were representing Larches before Labour won the seats. You had Lib Dem leader Danny Gallagher who lives in Cumbria and Rob Osinski who lives in Blackpool, it was almost farcical. I live in Warton which is still Preston, I have a Preston postcode, a Preston phone number and it’s home to BAE which is one of Preston’s biggest employers.”
Drew makes the point that Labour candidates for councillor elections are chosen by ward residents, Liberal Democrat candidates are selected in the same way. Conservative candidates are selected by committee.
Independent councillor for Deepdale Terry Cartwright, who sits on the council’s Standards Committee strongly believes that councillors should come from within the ward:
“Give or take someone living 500 yards out of the ward boundary I think it’s really important that you live in the ward you’re representing. You have to walk around and really know the area, it’s no good driving in, you have to walk or cycle around. It is really important that you’re visible so people can know you, know your face and stop you in the street if they need you.
“People will often say: ‘Oh I haven’t seen the other lot since last year’ A lot of people only see their councillor when they’re campaigning or putting a leaflet through the door. It’s not just important that people know you but you know the people in the area. That you know all the streets and alleys. We’ll catch young ones up to no good and they’ll say ‘how did you know we were here?’ and I’ll say because when we were young we were hanging about in the same places!
“I used to represent Ribbleton and that wasn’t too bad because I was a 15 minute walk away but as soon as I could I stood for Deepdale because that’s where I live. People will often vote for parties without thinking too much about the councillor. I was elected because people were voting for me, because I live in the area and because they know I’ll represent everyone.”
The chairman of the standards committee of Preston City Council was contacted but did not respond.
But the most important opinion on whether this matters belongs to you, the voters. Look at the map, look at where your councillor lives and tell us if you believe this is an important issue in the comments below.
Every attempt has been made to verify the accuracy of data in this article, for right of reply and corrections email [email protected]