One of COSLA’s priorities is to develop the diversity of local elected representatives, addressing barriers and encouraging and supporting a wider range of people to come forward as candidates in local government elections. Over the coming months we will be sharing stories from elected members, celebrating and encouraging increased diversity. We will hear why people choose to stand for elected office, what they gain from doing so as well as the barriers and challenges they face and how these are overcome. Join us as we hear these inspirational stories……
I’m Barbara Foulkes, I’m from Kirkwall on Orkney and I’m the councillor for Kirkwall West and Orphir. I’m married with two grown up children and when off duty I am usually found walking the dog or on the golf course! I was elected in 2017 and to celebrate International Women’s Day I’m reflecting on why I decided to stand for election and how I am getting on two years later…..
Why stand to be a local councillor?
The above is a great question – and particularly so if you are a woman. Personally, I stood because:
I love the place I live in. It is the people that make Orkney, they are warm, friendly and welcoming and I stood for elected office because I wanted to work for them, to make a difference to the quality of life for people here.
I wanted to get involved in local decision making. I’ve always been involved in local groups; I am by nature interested in how things are done, why and for who. It is part of my DNA. I have always been political – I’m a card-carrying Liberal Democrat. These interests drew me towards elected office.
You cannot be it if you cannot see it- and we don’t see enough women in local politics. We need more women in local politics. We are more than 50% of the population but make up only 30% of elected members in Local Government. Women are underrepresented! I also believe women often bring an open mindedness and a resolution and solution focused approach that is sometimes missing in local politics. Women can make a massive difference in political life. I wanted to be one of those women and I wanted to encourage other women into the role too.
And how am I doing – two years on from being elected?
It’s pretty much full time and very rewarding. The day to day meetings at which meaningful decisions are made take up a lot of time – but to be at the heart of the discussions on the strategic future for Orkney is so important to me.
The contact with the people who live in the ward is critical. The best part of the job (and yes, it is a job) is helping someone with a problem. Meeting the members of the electorate one to one means you build up real relationships; it is humbling to be trusted to take the issues they raise forward on their behalf. There is not always a solution and that is hard to accept but most of time we can so something; when we can’t it often helps people just to be a listening ear.
I am a better talker than a writer. I am writing this in the hope that more women will stand for local election. Join the conversation and give more women a voice.
If you would like to get in touch directly my contact details are email@example.com and I’m on Facebook as ‘Barbara Foulkes Councillor’