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From the vast array of media coverage in recent times, we all know Scotland is once again heading to polling stations this week. On 4th May 2017, the Scottish people are being asked to vote for who they want to be in charge of their local council. Local council elections are usually held every four years and give us all the opportunity to have a say on the issues that matter most in our local communities.

This year will mark a historic change in the eligibility of those who are entitled to vote – this is the first time where 16 and 17-year olds are entitled to have a say in those who are going to be representing their interests in local government for the next four years.

Given the current political difficulties which are being faced by Scotland, and the United Kingdom, in light of Brexit and the upcoming General Election, it is easy to overlook the significant impact the local council can have on our day to day lives.

The function of the local council is to serve the local people. They are responsible for the provision of local services and control the way in which local resources are allocated to those services. This means they are responsible for deciding what is a priority in terms of spending. In the face of austerity and budget cuts, it is important that the right people are elected to represent, and fight, for the views of their local community and the services provided.

One forgotten factor of the local elections can be the impact the local government can have on the health and safety of those living and working in their community. For example, in the last political term, we have seen the safety of school children in Edinburgh and Cumbernauld put in danger. Various schools in Edinburgh had to be closed due to concerns over the safety regarding the structure of the school buildings. In Cumbernauld, the lives of 44 children were endangered following a bus crash on the way to school. As a community, and society, we should all be looking to exercise our democratic freedom and ensure our vote lies with the candidates best placed to look after our safety on a daily basis. A child should be safe when travelling on a school bus and safe while sitting in their classroom!

It is also the job of the local authority to maintain highways, carriageways and footways to ensure they are in a safe condition for members of the public. This becomes an issue of resource allocation when budget cuts are being made and resources taken away. We have all walked through the streets and noticed the poor condition of the pavement or tripped over a broken slab. We have all driven down a street and felt a pothole causing damage to our cars. In each of the 32 local councils, we need Councillors who are going to ensure our health and safety is a top priority and ensure the appropriate resources are allocated to prevent injuries to members of the local community while going about their day to day life.

With austerity measures being taken services could be axed, or dramatically cut, if control of your local authority falls into the wrong hands. It is important to get out and vote in the local elections on 4th May 2017 to ensure the health and safety of you, and your family, is protected.

Blog by Eilish Lindsay

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