Lobbying your local council
The main reasons to lobby your local authorities are: To influence a decision which is about to be made by the council To reverse a council decision For example, you might want to persuade the council not to withdraw funding from a local women’s centre or a local crèche, or to implement Equal Pay legislation You may choose to lobby the council as part of a national campaign or over an issue of local concern. Your local authority could consider that there is public support for their policies, unless you let them know otherwise – so make your voice heard.
Preparing to lobby
It is important to find out about your local authority and its councillors, before you start lobbying, so that you target the right people, departments and committees at the right time. You need to know which councillors will be involved in reaching a decision on an issue. You also need to know who your local councillor is, and what committees he/she sits on. Local authorities are obliged to provide a public register of the names and addresses of local councillors and which committee they sit on.The Municipal Year Book also contains all this information. Your Public Library should have a copy. Volume 1 outlines each section’s work, volume 2 contains the names and addresses of councillors and officers. Your council’s Information Office should provide you with a list of the council committee membership. You may also be able to find a lot of information about your council on their own website.
Know your council, know your rights
Knowledge of the council’s work and past decisions on certain issues will make you more confident in your lobbying. A whole range of information is available to the public, including documents, reports, and the minutes and agendas of council meetings. It’s your legal right to have access to all of these papers, unless they are labelled as exempt. Copies may be held at the public library; if not you can request them from the council. They may charge a small fee. You may also obtain information from your local authorities’ website It’s often useful to attend council committee meetings. This way you can keep up-to-date with the progress of the council’s work and the decisions on the issues that affect you. All council meetings are open to the public, unless they are classified as ‘exceptional’. If you are lobbying with a group, you may decide to attend the meetings on a rota basis. At each of your group meetings, you could report to the others what happened at the meeting. Remember, therefore, to take notes.
Information supplied by The Fawcett Society. www.gn.apc.org/fawcett