On 5th May, over 4,000 council seats across 146 councils are up for election in England.
While central Government controls the funding local authorities receive, local councillors do have significant powers. From decisions around the building of new homes for social rent, to how existing stock is allocated, to funding decisions that could directly affect the service you run, the make-up of a local council has a big impact on housing and homelessness issues within your local area.
During the run up to an election, those standing are in listening mode. They are keen to understand the issues at play and to show voters they care and that they have solutions to their needs.
As such, the next month or so is the perfect time to engage potential councillors in your area. Using the run up to an election to cultivate these relationships can not only influence council decisions over the next term, it can also mean you have good contacts if you ever want to raise issues with the council moving forward.
If you don’t know who is standing for election in your local area, you can use this handy search tool to check. Once you have done that there are a number of different ways you can get in contact with candidates.
Candidates like to be seen to be on top of local issues and connecting with the community, so contacting them, either by email or through social media, and inviting them to visit your service is a really effective way to engage. Seeing your work in action will help them understand the value you bring, which could serve your service well in the long-run. However, if you are understandably too busy to entertain someone, simply asking for a chat over the phone is still a good way to get your voice heard.
Another option, if you have a bit more time, is to organise a hustings in your local area. A hustings is a panel discussion in the run-up to an election where candidates debate policies and answer questions from the audience. They usually feature candidates from all major parties, are most frequently organised by local organisations such as community or faith groups and are held in the area where the candidates are standing for election. Hustings can be held in person or online. If you want to find out more about them and how to organise one, Homeless Link produced a guide for the 2021 elections that remains relevant now.
Finally, if you are keen to contact people standing for election in your area but still aren’t sure of the best way to go about it, Homeless Link is happy to support. You can drop me a line at email@example.com, and remember to register to vote!
Note: the elections have now passed.