Updated: Monday, 20th January 2020 @ 2:08pm

Out-of-date and suited to older people: Councils must modernise to connect with electorate, demands Rochdale MP

Out-of-date and suited to older people: Councils must modernise to connect with electorate, demands Rochdale MP

By Jeremy Culley

Councils must modernise and ‘up their game’ to connect more with people, insists a Rochdale MP who launched a scornful attack against hefty spending cuts.

Labour’s Simon Danczuk said allowances for councillors must be made more appropriate to encourage people of all demographics to treat the role as a full-time job.

Mr Danczuk’s comments come at a time when Rochdale Council’s projected budget has been cut by a further £17million, after initially dropping by £45million over the next two years.

The average age of councillors in the UK is 60, something ‘totally unacceptable’ in the words of Mr Danczuk.

His early years as a councillor in Blackburn-with-Darwen highlight the problem.

He said: “I became a councillor when I was 27 and was the youngest member of the council. I served for eight years and when I left, I was still the youngest member.

“There is something not quite right about that.”

Mr Danczuk argued that this absence of modernity can directly affect interaction with the electorate.

He used the example of Rochdale Council banning tweeting in council meetings a couple of years ago, after Conservative member Wera Hobhouse was criticised for using the site.

At the time Labour council leader Colin Lambert said: “It is disgraceful. Councillor Hobhouse should be concentrating on the issues at hand and if she is tweeting then she is not concentrating.”

Mr Danczuk argued this flew in the face of the idea of connecting with voters, citing the example of Oldham Council as an authority who encouraged its members to tweet.

He agreed that the current system tailors the job of a councillor to older people – sustaining a culture within local authorities that can seem unfriendly – but refused to blame representatives for this.

“These people are responsible for multi-million pound organisations,” he said.

“They need more appropriate allowances, and devices such as modern computers and phones.”

How this is achieved is another matter, government funding to the borough will have dropped by 50% since the coalition won power by 2015.

Picture courtesy of Oldham Council via Twitter, with thanks

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