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Why local councils are so important

Decisions taken by politicians on your behalf affect every aspect of your life, 24 hours a day. The quality of life for you and your family is dependent on these decisions and yet only about a third of people entitled to vote in local elections do so. It makes a difference how you vote! Our councils make decisions that affect us every day - from the quality of health & social care services and schools, to our access to broadband, to how often our bins are collected and what is recycled.

Responsibility for how these services are delivered sits with our elected councillors in our three tiers of local government.

Devon County Council is responsible for services across Devon, such as education, transport, broadband, planning, public safety, social care and libraries.

District councils cover smaller areas and are responsible for services like rubbish collection and recycling, housing and planning applications.

Parish and town councils help with local issues, like allotments, bus shelters, community centres, play areas and grants to help local organisations.

When everything runs well - when we drive on smooth roads and walk on litter free streets - we don't think about the work councils do. Perhaps we should. Key workers continued to provide council services through lock down and the current restrictions, sometimes at risk to their own health. We remain grateful to them. This year has shown how vital the work of local councils is to all of us.

During the pandemic, we needed councils to support businesses and vulnerable residents. Many of us needed the council to look after elderly and vulnerable relatives when we couldn't visit. Knowledge about local areas meant councils' public health teams were better able to track and trace infections. We used broadband for our work, our businesses, our children's education, to shop, to pay bills, to talk to our doctors, and to keep in touch with friends, family and our community.

I hope the good news we've had about vaccines will allow us to resume our normal activities safely. Councils will need to support residents and businesses as this happens. Decisions will have to be made about transport, housing, jobs, social care and other services in what is likely to be a difficult economic environment.

As Liberal Democrats we believe decisions should be made locally - that communities themselves are best placed to decide what matters to them. Too many people feel disconnected from politics, which seems irrelevant to their everyday lives. But we're all affected every day, whatever our age, background or occupation, by the decisions made by our local councils.

Our voting system needs reform so that all votes matter equally, whether in a safe or marginal constituency. If you join cross-party groups such as Make Votes Matter https://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk you can campaign to make your vote count in all democratic elections. Even with our current system your vote does make a difference. Because councillors are elected by a smaller group than MPs, your vote matters more than in a general election.

There will be local elections in May 2023. Plan to vote. Check now you're registered to vote. It's usually more convenient to arrange a postal vote. Apply for one now! If you live in Mid Devon contact the Council at https://www.middevon.gov.uk/your-council/voting-elections/contact-us-about-voting-and-elections/. If you are an East Devon resident go to: https://eastdevon.gov.uk/elections-and-registering-to-vote/voting/ways-to-vote/vote-by-post/.

Make a diary note to look into what the candidates stand for - look at their websites and read their leaflets.

Tell your candidates what matters to you. Once elected, your councillor is there to help you and your community, whether or not they got your vote. Keep telling them what matters. Engaging in local politics is the best way you have of making everyday life better.

You can find information about the Liberal Democrats, what we stand for, our campaign issues and our candidates at: https://tivandhonlibdems.org.uk/.
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