Ward councillors and community leadership: A future perspective

Published: November 2007 Publication Type: Publication

Author: Saffron Woodcraft

This report explores the findings from a study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by the Young Foundation and LGiU.

In 2007 when this report was released, the role ward councillors were expected to play in community leadership and strategic decision making was becoming a pressing issue for local authorities in the context of current policy and legislative changes. This study investigated the likely changes of this role in England over the following five years as neighbourhood working, legislative and policy changes impacted on the role of local government.

The report draws on interviews and focus groups carried out in Newcastle, the London Borough of Newham, Salford and Suffolk. It captures the views of councillors, council officers, and community organisers about the skills and support ward councillors needed to adapt to a new role and the short and long-term obstacles to change.

This report made a practical contribution to the debate about the future role of ward councillors and underpinned the development of a new policy framework that enabled elected members to support neighbourhoods and contribute effectively to community leadership, in particular in deprived and disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The report explores:

  • Aspirations for the ‘ideal’ ward councillor role, including councillors involvement in community leadership and strategic decision making
  • Short-term issues that present challenges for the development of new councillor roles, including the skills and support councillors will need to make the transition to new ways of working
  • The way local authorities, political parties and communities worked with elected members, and the obstacles to improving these working relationships, many of which were dependent on changes to the culture of local authorities and local political groups.

Download a full pdf version of the summary findings.

Download a full pdf of the publication.