It’s that time of the year – frequent knocks on door, leaflets through the letterbox, polite smiles and questions asking about how you are planning to vote, all leading up to tomorrow’s Herts County Council elections.
If you’re anything like me, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.
What’s the point in making the effort to vote in a local election? Everyone knows that it’s the national poll that decides the government at Westminster – that’s the one that really matters, right?
Wrong. The people you elect to represent you at County Hall will probably be able to have a more direct affect on your life than your MP – they make local decisions, they have local budgets to spend, they are in charge of crucial local services like schools and roads.
But that message obviously hasn’t got through to most of us – the experts reckon that you can probably expect about two-thirds of the electorate to make their mark at a general election – and that’s a worryingly low figure in itself, if you ask me – but when it comes to a local poll, for seats on Herts County Council, on Dacorum Borough Council or last year’s vote for the county’s new police and crime commissioner, you’re lucky if you can muster half that.
That means only about one in three people bothers to make use of their democratic right to vote – a right that people in other less liberated countries are prepared to die for.
So just to press home the point, Herts County Council sorts out most of the roads, the bulk of our schools, is responsible for children’s services which includes fostering and adoption, they’ve got a big role to play in making our environment safer and cleaner, they’re the ones who go chasing dodgy traders, and they also run our libraries. And that’s not even half of it – you can find out all of the things they do with your money by visiting www.hertsdirect.org – one click of a mouse isn’t nearly as much to ask as walking all the way down to the polling station, after all, but if you make the effort you might be surprised.
Lots of people just refer to ‘the council’ and don’t really understand the difference between the county authority and Dacorum Borough Council, which has a separate range of responsibilities including planning, housing, local parks and culture.
Some areas, like Berkhamsted and Tring, also have town councils which really dig into the nitty-gritty of local issues.
But all of them make decisions that directly affect your life and they spend large amounts of money that you are required to pay in council tax and other taxes.
Once a year or so, they ask you to do your bit by saying who should be responsible for that.
It’s not a huge ask, is it? So don’t miss out, make your mark at the polling station tomorrow.
Chinomnso Obi, 23, lives in Hemel Hemsptead and is an economics graduate who has an interest in finance and politics