Thriving independent media ‘crucial part’ of democratic process – new mayor

By Jason Lewis, Local Democracy Reporter

Dave Shields Lord Mayor LDRS 600pxThe new Lord Mayor of Southampton is aiming to rekindle engagement in local democracy.


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Cllr Dave Shields wants to use his mayoral year to restore the public’s trust in elected representatives.

He announced this “underlying personal mission” after becoming the 802nd Mayor of Southampton and only the third Lord Mayor of the city.

Cllr Shields, who spent the last year as Sheriff, highlighted the low turnout of less than a third in this month’s local elections as a cause for concern.

Discussing his new role, the Lord Mayor told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “There is a lot of pomp and circumstance and that isn’t something that necessarily appealed to me but I can see how it does mean an awful lot to others.

“It is growing on me because I see the importance here of providing some kind o f civic leadership to add value.

“When I spoke to people as Sheriff, I was struck by how little they understood about how councils work, what a Sheriff was, what does a Lord Mayor do, how do you become it.

“People do feel very valued when they feel that they have got access to that.

“Something I want to build on is to try to make what we do at the council, which is so important, understood and valued by the public.”

Cllr Shields went to King Edward School in the city. He was a roadie for rock bands before working in public health at two local authorities in London.

The Lord Mayor took up a similar role with Southampton City Council.

Upon his retirement, he decided to stand for elected office and he has been a Labour councillor for Freemantle since 2012.

Cllr Shields said it was important that politicians re-earned the trust of residents, adding that a thriving independent media was a “crucial part” of the democratic process.

He said he loved Southampton but he felt it had not always lived up to its full potential.

Asked about his ambitions for his mayoral year, Cllr Shields said: “I hope we raise sufficient funds for the charities I have adopted but also I would like to think people feel more engaged.

“A greater participation in our local democratic process. Whether that is standing for office, participating in consultation or other deliberative events that we put on.

“I thought the Citizens’ Assembly on climate change was a great initiative and I would like to see more things like that. New ways of involving people who would not always been involved.

“Things are always much more complex. There is no binary yes or no solution to the problems we face so we do need better engagement.

“If my role can be used to facilitate it, that would make me very happy.”

The Lord Mayor’s charities for the year are arts in health initiative Paintings in Hospitals, Southampton-based SoCo Music Project and the Southampton Park National City project.

Conservative councillor James Baillie was elected as the new Sheriff at the Guildhall mayor making ceremony on Wednesday, May 15.

Photo: LDRS

ldrs logo 200px This article is from the Local Democracy Reporting Service or Shared Data Unit. Some alterations and additions may have been made by our site, which is a partner in the BBC's Local News Partnerships scheme. LDRS journalists are funded by the BBC to cover local authorities and other public service organisations, and content is shared with all partners.


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