Effective Campaigning and Working with Local Councils

This workshop aims to give participants an understanding of how to effectively engage with local councils and influence local decision making as part of wider campaigns to bring about change and make our towns and cities more welcoming to sanctuary seekers. The workshop will:

  • Share tips about working with councils and building relationships with councillors;
  • Identify what mechanisms within local councils can be used to influence decision making and inspire practical action;
  • Draw on case studies about passing local Motions Against Destitution in Bristol, Manchester and Kirklees, and examples of other work from across the country to demonstrate what works and doesn’t work when engaging with local councils;
  • Inspire participants to consider what local action they can take individually/ collectively to amplify the call for change to asylum policies.

    Handout about experience from Birmingham HERE

    effective campaigning pic

    Tips for Effective Campaigning and Working with Local Councils

    Identifying and Contacting Your Councillors

    You can find your councillors (and MP/ MEPs) by typing in your postcode at: https://www.writetothem.com/ or by visiting your council’s website. Search for your council here: https://www.gov.uk/find-your-local-council.

    How do councils work?

  • Local government is the collective term for local councils. They are sometimes referred to as local authorities. In the UK, there are several types of local council. Each of these has responsibility for a particular range of local services.
  • Local councils are made up of councillors (members) who are voted for by the public in local elections and represent the residents of a ward, and paid council staff (officers) who deliver services. Each councillor has to stand for re-election every four years.
  • Councils provide a wide range of services, either directly through their staff or by commissioning (buying) services from outside organisations. They also have responsibility for the economic, social and environmental ’wellbeing’ of their area.
  • Councillors from different political parties make up the full council. The council is divided into individual groups called committees, which have responsibility for particular services such as education or planning. These recommend decisions to be agreed by the full council.
  • The council is steered by the council leader and cabinet, or the elected mayor and their deputy mayors.

    What does a local councillor do?

  • They hold regular surgeries (drop-ins) where they listen to the problems of local residents.
  • Vote in council meetings and scrutinise the spending of local budgets.
  • If they are an executive member of the council, they are responsible for a particular department (e.g. Children’s Services).
  • Each councillor is also a member of a Party (e.g. the Labour Group).

    What mechanisms within councils can be used to influence decision making and inspire practical action?

  • You can write to your councillor to request a meeting or go to their constituency surgery. Research your councillors’ interests and what positions they hold in the council by visiting your council’s website.
  • You can attend most council meetings (although usually you won’t be able to speak at them unless this has been pre-arranged). You can ask to brief a committee (e.g. Communities Scrutiny Committee) or arrange a deputation to the council executive or a relevant committee to raise a particular issue.
  • You can invite the ceremonial mayor, elected mayor, council leader or a relevant member of the executive to speak at an event or visit your organisation.
  • You can ask the council to pass a Motion or Resolution about a particular issue.
  • You can use consultations, strategy reviews and equality impact assessments to highlight needs and call for action (e.g. Homelessness Strategy, Joint Strategic Needs Assessment).

    Tips on effectively working with councils and building relationships with councillors

  • Be clear about why you’re engaging with them and what you want them to do. Have a clear:
    Problem → Solution → Ask
  • Use a combination of real stories, reliable evidence and good analysis to appeal to your audience.
  • Link your issue to one of their existing priorities or areas of interest.
  • Clearly communicate the benefits of your proposal (e.g. budgetary saving, increased community cohesion, reduced risk to community safety, improved public health).
  • Come prepared to answer direct questions, such as: How much will it cost? Who else supports this proposal? What do you want them to do?
  • Analyse where the power lies – aim for cross-party support if appropriate, and use insider networks
  • Make your engagement with the council part of a wider campaign, ensuring there’s pressure from several angles.


Further resources: See https://www.gov.uk/understand-how-your-council-works/types-of-council and http://www.thepeoplesbudget.org.uk/start/localgov/

Effective Campaigning and Working with Local Councils – Workshop intro & handout v3

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