Terms of reference for the Democratic Health Task and Finish Group.
At the most recent ordinary community and town council (“community councils") elections in May 2022, 62% were uncontested and 16% unfilled.” Around 30 councils were inquorate following these elections. Turnout was also down around 5% from 2017 to 38%. In July 2022, the Minister for Finance and Local Government noted in a written statement that:
“This is far from satisfactory. Community councils are an opportunity to effect positive community change through our most local level of democracy.”
This Task and Finish Group has been established to explore the 2 key issues noted in the Minister’s written statement:
- Ensuring people have a genuine choice as to who represents and serves them.
- Ensuring people feel being part of this level of democracy is a way of effecting change, and therefore want to put themselves forward for election.
The aim of the Task and Finish Group is to provide the Minister for Finance and Local Government and the sector with an analysis of the issues and options for short and long-term actions to improve this situation.
This Task and Finish Group will bring together representatives with expertise in understanding the democratic process, the barriers to inclusivity and diversity, and from stakeholders in the local government and third sectors. The Task and Finish Group will explore the causes of lower engagement and participation with community and town councils and suggest options for action to address these.
For the purposes of this Task and Finish Group:
- Engagement: this refers to how aware communities are of what their community or town council does and participate in its work. In areas with higher levels of engagement, it also describes how community and town councils and the communities they serve work with each other as part of the delivery of services and activities.
- Representation: this refers to the people who are, and encouraging people to become, a community or town councillor.
The Task and Finish Group is tasked with identifying options for actions for community and town councils, sector representative bodies and government to:
- improve awareness and engagement between communities and their community councils
- increase the number and diversity of candidates standing for election to community and town councils
In particular, it is expected it would consider:
- how communities and their community and town councils can more closely communicate, and work, together, including any barriers (or perceived barriers) and how these may be overcome
- how to encourage more people to stand as community councillors, learning from instances where there is greater competition for council seats
- how to encourage a greater diversity of potential candidates/councillors
- how to monitor and evaluate the democratic health of community and town councils in the long term