The volatile Handforth Parish Council meeting that went viral in February thrust the often-overlooked world of local democracy into the spotlight and created a star in Jackie Weaver.
With the local elections coming up on May 6, the chief officer for the Cheshire Association of Local Councils tells The Big Issue about the last few whirlwind months and why casting your vote is so important.
Why I got involved in local politics
People get involved in local politics because they feel that sense of injustice about something. They want to change something. For me it was no different.
I got elected to the parish council because I thought that’s how you changed things. I enjoyed my term of office but during that time I went to parish group meetings and I was introduced to the Cheshire Association of Local Councils – an umbrella group where I still work now. We do advice, mediation, all sorts, for parish councils. My mediation skills have been proven now! It was the right place for me.
Surprisingly, Covid-19 has revitalised local politics
We have seen a huge increase in the number of people having a look. I would say there is a role to play for everyone in local democracy. That’s not to say we all have to be councillors or officers but it does make a difference when councillors are held to account by people watching them – not that it made much of a difference in Handforth for that one meeting!
I can’t assure you that you will never come across another meeting like the Handforth one. That level of hostility was unusual but people do have heated discussions at these meetings because they are talking about things that are hugely important to them, they feel passionate about them. Voices will be raised!