Cllr Charlotte Zosseder and Cllr Chris Vinson
Councillors have revealed what the role involves, what they enjoy and why more women and young people should stand for election.
There are just two weeks to go until nominations open for people to put themselves forward to stand for election as a local councillor.
DDC is encouraging people over 18, of all backgrounds and experiences, who are passionate about their community and want to make a difference, to submit their nomination.
Prospective candidate events are being held at 10am on Wednesday, March 15 and 6.30pm on Thursday, March 16, at the council offices in Whitfield, where nomination packs will be available, and people can find out the process of being a candidate.
Details can be found here www.dover.gov.uk/council--democracy/elections/standing-as-a-candidate.aspx The Notice of Election is posted on March 20 and nominations open for two weeks from March 21.
If elected in May, you would represent your ward and make and influence decisions to help secure a bright future for the Dover district.
But there is a lot more to the role than the decision-making process.
From advocating for individuals in need, to helping communities solve specific problems in their streets, scrutinising decisions made at council and being a voice for residents – there’s much to do.
Some councillors also have additional responsibilities as cabinet members, covering a vast range of portfolios including planning, environment, digital and climate change.
Representing the two main parties on DDC, Cllr Chris Vinson and Cllr Charlotte Zosseder have spoken about what it’s like to be a local councillor.
They both say their day-to-day work can vary hugely, but the best part of the role is seeing the tangible difference you’re making to people’s lives and the community.
Cllr Zosseder, who represents the Buckland ward, said: “We can help people who can’t communicate their needs or their requirements so well.
“Sometimes all it will take is a phone call and I’ll be able to resolve a long-running issue and change someone’s daily life. Being able to help people like that is very rewarding.”
Cllr Vinson, who represents Walmer, said: “My motivations for being a councillor are quite selfish in that I want to live in a fantastic place, I want to make the community in which we live even better than it is, for me and for all my neighbours.
"Whether it’s helping individuals or cutting through the bureaucracy that might be getting in the way of a resident getting a litter bin on their street for example or tackling speeding issues.
“We’re fortunate as councillors as we have privileged access to lots of information and people to get things fixed.”
This year’s local election takes place on May 4 and in the Dover district there are 32 seats up for grabs.
Currently, there are just seven women serving on the council and 24 men, with one seat vacant.
According to data from UK Parliament, 41% of local councillors in England are women.
Both Cllr Vinson and Cllr Zosseder want to see more women putting themselves forward to stand for election.
“If you look at the proportion of candidates, all the political parties field more male candidates than female candidates and that’s not because they want to, it’s because men are seemingly more likely to put themselves forward,” said Cllr Vinson.
“I know so many capable women within my local area who I think would make fantastic councillors, but they won’t stand.
“For many women, it’s because they have lots of commitments, particularly those with families or caring responsibilities, which take up lots of their time.”
Cllr Zosseder, who previously worked for charity 50:50 Parliament which strives for a more gender-balanced democracy, said some of it comes down to imposter syndrome.
“When I first started as a councillor I had all these people around me who were directors or managers and I was doing admin at a day centre. You get a mindset of ‘should I be sitting with these people?’ - it’s that little voice in the back of your head which starts from when you’re growing up. I still hear it in the playground - ‘that’s a boy’s thing, that’s a girl’s thing’ - no it’s not!
“I’ve got a massively strong feminist for a mother and so I had her telling me I’m as good as anyone.
“I’d say the same to any woman thinking of standing. Yes, it’s hard juggling work and a family, but you’re capable and it is doable. It’s so important to have that gender balance on local councils to ensure balanced representation.”
Aside from gender, age is another factor creating an imbalance within local councils, with the average age of a local councillor being 60.
Cllr Vinson and Cllr Zosseder are among the youngest councillors on DDC, being 38 and 42 respectively, and both have young children.
Cllr Zosseder says it’s crucial younger people are encouraged to stand so the younger generations have a strong voice representing them on the council.
“It’s also a great way to gain experience and knowledge as well as confidence which you can use in your career,” she added.
“You get a huge amount of support from DDC officers - you don’t have to know everything.”
Cllr Vinson says work and children can create time and financial pressures, but that it is perfectly possible to be a councillor too, due to the flexibility the role allows.
“Fundamentally, councils work best when they represent the variety of people that live in their area and I think democracy works best when people are given a good choice,” he added.
People will be able to cast their vote at polling stations across the district on May 4.
This year differs from previous years, however, with the introduction of Voter ID, in which voters must produce photographic identification in order to receive a ballot paper in a polling station. Those without ID can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate at www.gov.uk
Cllr Zosseder said: "It’s important that everyone has the same opportunity to vote and DDC officers are working hard to offer support and advice to anyone who needs it.”
For full details about the nominations process and candidate events go to https://www.dover.gov.uk/Council--Democracy/Elections/Standing-as-a-Candidate.aspx
For more about becoming a councillor in general see https://www.local.gov.uk/be-councillor/becoming-councillor
To find out more about Voter ID go to www.dover.gov.uk/Council--Democracy/Elections/Voter-ID.aspx
Posted on 08 March 2023