Ensuring councillors remain focused on the doorstep through a councillor contract has led to a stronger relationship between the Party, it’s councillors and the public we serve in Lambeth, and the results speak for themselves.

As a councillor I know that post election your mind turns squarely to improving the lives of residents, ensuring that community groups are supported in what they want achieved and obviously the business of running the council if your campaign went well. With the swingeing Tory cuts the business of the town hall, budget setting and protecting frontline services has become even more important.

The focus on campaigning and remaining in touch with residents concerns and reminding them that it is the Labour party which is delivering for them is even more important. There can be a tendency for councillors once elected to think the business of campaigning is party business, something they are not responsible for or at worst something they are above.

But Labour councillors are not just the political leaders of their ward and borough, not simply leaders of the community in their Ward, they are also the leaders of their branches and constituencies. Their presence leading the troops and reinforcing resident engagement is vital.

To this end in Lambeth we have instituted a councillor contract, jointly responsible to the Lambeth Campaigns Forum and the Lambeth Labour group. It helps to make clear to councillors what is expected of them and it helps our members understand the role and demands of a councillor. It contains:

  • commitments to campaigning in their ward, constituency and borough;
  • attendance at relevant scrutiny meetings, full council and Labour group meetings;
  • attendance at branch and constituency meetings, including monthly branch reports (if none is produced a blank sheet of paper goes round the membership); and
  • representation at surgeries and community meetings.

If a councillor wants to stand for a position which receives a special responsibility allowance like scrutiny chair, cabinet member or chair of planning then their performance will be monitored. The bread and butter of being a councillor is representing your ward and supporting your local branch to keep in touch with your residents. No councillor should be allowed to take on further responsibilities if the basics are not dealt with.

And the results a year in are very positive. Contact rates have doubled in most wards; in those where not we have put in extra support for the party to organise sessions with councillors; contact creator training and leaflet deliverers have been shipped from strong branches to weak ones; and we have been much more alive to issues that are coming up on the doorstep right across the borough so we can translate public mood and service failure into strategic policy change and borough wide campaigning.

The councillor contract is set to achievable levels, we have not instituted a harsh and impossible regime to follow – this would simply demotivate hard-working councillors or those with family or other responsibilities. But the light it has shone on where the party and councillors need some extra support to be the people’s representatives has borne much fruit and helped us remain focused on keeping in touch with the public and the party.

Pointing the finger at a goal is not the same as finger pointing at failure. The Labour party is a supportive body, not a blame organisation and as such we are stronger in supporting the public we represent.