Welcome to Part Two of a three-part series of Adulting Mondays where I (Tamara) attempt to demystify the upcoming May 3rd local election in Pompey. Today, I am exploring local council and councillors and what the flippin’ monkeys it is all about. So, prepare to be skooled, yo!
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin…
Welcome to Portsmouth…City Council
Portsmouth is a unitary authority which means Portsmouth City Council (PCC) is responsible for all local government services in Pompey. It basically does the jobs of-of a county council and a district council combined and is responsible for public services that affect our daily lives. Southampton is also another nearby example of a unitary authority.
Yes, Portsmouth is geographically in Hampshire but being a unitary authority is the reason you can’t use a Hampshire County Council library card in Pompey and vice versa. I’m looking at you Mr Rude Dude who aggressively shouted at a Central Library librarian because you couldn’t use your Hampshire library card to access the computers. Pssstt and boooo to you!
The different local services Portsmouth City Council deal with are numerous and include housing, recycling, waste collection and disposal, council tax billing and collection, environmental health, education, libraries and social services, to name but a few.
For example, do you have have a dodgy landlord? Rubbish not collected? Want more recycling facilities? Have a noisy neighbour? Tired of potholes on your route to work? Contact Portsmouth City Council and your three local ward councillors.
Here Be Wards (and Councillors)
‘What be wards?’, I hear you cry. Ok, lemme bruk bruk bruk it down for you:
The geographical area PCC cover is divided into two parliamentary constituencies: Portsmouth North (currently Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt) and Portsmouth South (currently Labour MP Stephen Morgan).
So, these two constituencies are each made up of seven electoral divisions known as wards. Nowt to do with hospitals! It is the role of local councillors to represent their ward and the interests of the people who live and work in that area.
To clarify – on a national government level, we vote for a local Members of Parliament (MP) who represent us and the constituency in Parliament. On a local government level, we vote for city councillors who represent us and our ward at the local council. It is this local level that I am focusing on in this series. (Shout out to all the League of Gentlemen fans who are now reading this in a creepy Tubbs voice.)
Anywho, in Pompey, we have 14 wards with three councillors representing each ward, with a total of 42 councillors (3 councillors in each of the 14 wards = 42. See – I can do smart!). Councillors can be independent or affiliated with a political party – totally up to them.
The Portsmouth North wards are Baffins, Copnor, Cosham, Drayton & Farlington, Hilsea, Nelson and Paulsgrove. The Portsmouth South wards are St Thomas, St Jude, Central Southsea, Eastney & Craneswater, Milton, Fratton and Charles Dickens.
The ward boundaries can seem pretty arbitrary, for example, I live in the Eastney and Craneswater ward but I live literally two steps from Milton market which is in the Milton ward. Therefore, I feel invested in both areas.
The four C’s… Council, Cabinet, Councillors and Candidates
Councillors are elected for a four-year term. The cycle of elections can seem a bit confusing but basically here in Portsmouth, a third of the councillors are elected every year over a four year cycle – with no elections in the fourth year.
At the moment PCC is a Conservative-run council as there are 20 Conservative councillors, 15 Liberal Democrat councillors, 2 Labour councillors, 2 UKIP councillors, 2 Independent councillors and one vacant seat. For the Conservatives to run this minority council, both the UKIP and Independent councillors lend them their votes. This effectively puts the Liberal Democrats in the Opposition.
The Full Council (all 42 councillors) elect the Leader of the Council (currently Conservative Donna Jones), and the Leader appoints the other members of the Cabinet – known as Executive councillors. Each cabinet member holds a separate portfolio or responsibility for a particular part of the council’s services, such as housing or education and is the spokesperson for that policy area or ‘portfolio’ they are responsible for. The Cabinet tends to be made up of the ruling political party – so for us in Portsmouth the Cabinet is currently made up of 9 Conservatives councillors. Scrutiny Committees are there to hold the Cabinet and Executive councillors to account and usually tend to be more politically-balanced and made up of non-executive backbench councillors.
Being a councillor is a pretty full-on commitment with tasks ranging from handling local constituents issues and concerns, dealing with casework and council business, developing council policy, working with council officers, scrutinising cabinet decisions and engaging with the community. Councillors are not paid a salary as such and many also have a regular day job, families and responsibilities outside of their role of councillor. They are paid a basic allowance of just over £10,000, travel and accommodation expenses and then extra for additional duties and special responsibilities such as being Leader of the Council, the Mayor or an Executive Cabinet member.
So, why not take five minutes to find out:
- What ward you live in
- Who your current local councillors are
- Who your local councillor candidates are
And in considering who to vote for, why not contact your local councillor candidates to find out their opinions on issues that matter to you. You can use this Portsmouth News Letter of the Day ‘Ask candidates pertinent questions before you vote’ as inspiration.
Let us know in the Comments section if you have any questions about the local elections and council, and I will do my best!
Tune in next week for the final part of this series – How to Vote, yo!