GUEST BLOG: Why does my vote count? (Part 1)

The local authority elections on May 22 give you a chance to have a say in how your local Council services are delivered. Don’t miss out.

You may think that you have little contact with your local Council. You don’t see council proceedings on the TV, councillors don’t get invited onto Question Time and don’t get asked for soundbites on Sky News, or to appear on reality shows. But your local council and the councillors you elect to it are responsible for delivering a big swathe of the public services you benefit from every day.

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Since Reading Borough (like the other boroughs in Berkshire) is a Unitary Authority, it is the only council that operates within its boundaries – the former County Council handed over its responsibilities to the Boroughs when it was abolished in 1998.

The Borough Council has responsibility for roads (mending them, sweeping them, building them, lighting them) and wider transport policy, schools (running (some of) them, making sure there are enough of them, feeding the pupils), housing (council/social provision, private sector regulation, benefits), social care (children’s services, adult services, accessibility, drug & alcohol support), just to name a few. It spends, in round figures, £125m a year (2014/15 budget) on running services and plans to spend around £173m over the next three years on capital projects. (Source: Reading Borough Council)

How does the Council decide how to spend its money? While central government applies constraints on some of the things the Council would like to do, the priorities and the detailed implementation of policy is determined by the Council itself according to its assessment of local needs. Your councillors are part of the decision-making – both individually, and as members of their parties. They are there to represent your views.

If you don’t vote on May 22, you’re giving up your right to help choose the individuals who act on your behalf when setting Council policy.

To help you choose who to vote for, Xn has built an interactive guide to the election which includes statements from the candidates standing in every ward. If there’s an issue that matters to you in the Borough, see which of the candidates has it as a priority should they be elected – and if none of them do, you can challenge them when they ask for your vote.

Our election guide can be found at www.xnmedia.co.uk/election.

The next article will explain how important the role of councillor is in the day-to-day running of the council – more reasons to exercise your vote.

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