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The Role of a Community Councillor

As a member of a community council it is important that you understand and remember the role you will play in your community from the outset. This means not simply offering your own views and opinions on local issues, or taking decisions that are based only on your own self-interest.

You need to represent the views of your community, or your section of the community. In practice, this involves discussing issues with people in the community to clarify their views and measuring the strength of their feelings on different topics.

It's also a good idea to encourage people to bring issues to you so that you can take them up at community council meetings. Try to check out the facts, however, and if there are two sides to the story, make sure that both of them are put forward. There is little point in taking up time at meetings to discuss problems that are based simply on misunderstandings or misrepresentations of the facts. Remember, if in doubt, check it out! 

At some point you may find some conflict between your personal views and interests and those of the community that you represent. If such a situation does arise, try to make sure that the views of the community take precedence.

Experience shows that if the views of individuals on the community council are allowed to take precedence then the wider community will very quickly lose confidence in the community council and its work may be devalued.

The task of any community council is to identify the needs and aspirations of its community and to take decisions that will lead to appropriate action in that community. At some point, this might involve setting priorities on the competing or conflicting needs of different sections of the community.

Competition and conflict are normal, healthy aspects of any vibrant community, so you shouldn't think of them as something that can be altogether avoided.

What is important is that you approach competition or conflict in a fair and reasonable manner. This means taking a balanced view of your community's needs and aspirations and giving a fair hearing to representatives from different interest groups in your community.

In particular, you should avoid being influenced by prejudice, whether in the sphere of race, religion, gender or any other of the labels that get attached to people.