A question we need to resolve if we are to improve the perception of local government is "what are councillors actually for"?
Are they primus inter pares, first and foremost champions of their local communities, there to hold the Executive to account and ensure the Council acts in the best interests of electors and tax-payers?
Or are they now part of the municipal political establishment; there to defend the actions of the Council to the wider population who do not understand the pressures that Officers work under?
Over recent weeks I have attended lots of local government interviews and training sessions for new and incumbent councillors, and I have grown increasingly concerned how many councillors referred to the Council as "we/us" and the Association and Party as "them/you". For example, "we do our best with the resources we have, but often you don't understand." What better example could you want of a councillor 'going native' and seeing themselves as part of the establishment?
The reason businesses traditionally gave their public facing workers branded ties, pens and folders was to promote a corporate image, ownership and identity. How do you hold your Officers to account if you are seen to be part of the ruling elite? How to you convince your electorate that you really are on their side when you turn up on their doorstep with your municipal tie, lapel badge and clutching your embossed leatherette document folder? Councillors who wish to be seen as champions of their local community should think carefully before they allow themselves to be branded in such ways.