Mid Suffolk District councillor talks all things council and community for National Democracy Week
Young people are being encouraged to get involved and show an interest in their local council as part of National Democracy Week.
Councillor Gerard Brewster, cabinet member for economy at Mid Suffolk District Council, said he would like to see more young people stand in the local election next year to represent the ideas and views of their generation.
“I think councils are getting a lot of the silver-haired variety standing but there is growing interest and many young people are very aware of what is going on in the world, some more so than their older peers,” he said.
“It would allow us to reach out to young people and even if they don’t want to be councillors, just to encourage them to take an interest and to vote.
“But the real goal is variety. There are several women in the council now but you can never stop encouraging more to join and young people would bring something completely new to the front.”
Cllr Brewster, who started as a councillor in 1973 when he was elected on to the now disbanded Stowmarket Urban District Council, has seen the council structure change over the years, and with it, the public’s opinion of the local authority.
“I think there’s a lack of understanding today about what we actually do, and in these terms there’s now an element of mistrust around what we do and why. That’s a real shame,” he said.
“That’s why I am always happy to meet with anyone who wants to ask a question or learn a bit more about us and I’d always encourage them to do that.”
Meeting with residents is just one of the daily duties councillors have to carry out, between attending various meetings and reading up on reports and papers – making time management a crucial skill for any candidate to have.
“They’ve got to want to take the job on to start with and be able to give whatever time they have to it,” he said.
“The main thing is to try and achieve what you set out to achieve and do everything to the best of your ability in order to deliver that. A job like mine is not for the type of person who wants to work nine to five and then go home.
“It’s hard work and very challenging but it’s very rewarding at the same time.”
While Cllr Brewster, who stands as an independent councillor, said that an interest in politics is not necessary to be a councillor, he believes that it is important for everyone to understand and celebrate the country’s democratic system.
“Democracy is looked upon as non-existent in some people’s eyes but it does exist and it’s what we do everyday,” he said.
“The public may sometimes think that we are not taking notice of their needs and wants but I can assure you that we do take notice and try our best to change our community, and the world really, for the better.
“You’re never going to please everyone but we weigh up what people are telling us and decide what benefits the community best in the long run. That’s what democracy is all about.”