On the campaign trail across Maidstone & The Weald this year there was an unusually strong level of engagement from people on the doorstep. There was a heightened level of understanding about how important our local authorities and elected representatives are, almost certainly as a result of witnessing the multiple challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. The turnout was 11 percentage points higher in the Police and Crime Commissioner ballot than the last election in 2016. Many Maidstone Borough Council wards also saw significant increases in voter engagement than in 2019, such as Allington and East.
I was also encouraged by the profiles of several new candidates standing this time around; more women, and more young people than before, connecting very successfully with their electorates at Borough and County levels.
But we are still well shy of achieving gender balance in our Councils, and we are lamentably short of candidates from diverse backgrounds. Why is that important? Because our councils need to fully reflect the society they represent; with voices, opinions and ideas from the wide spectrum of cultures we enjoy in this great country.
Next year there will be more elections and I really hope that an even wider selection of candidates will come forward. If anyone would like to talk to me about how the process works, I would welcome any approaches and will make introductions to colleagues who can help too, at all levels, from Parish, Borough and our County councils.
I would like to take this opportunity pay tribute to every candidate, of all political colours, who stood for election this month. I know that standing for office is hard work, but your efforts are crucial to the success and sustainability of our local democracy and I know that people across Maidstone & The Weald are enormously grateful, and respectful of your public service.