Being an activist in the TPA means you’re not just joining a political pressure group, you’re a guerrilla in our taxpayers’ army. We want to equip you with all you need to be able to hold your politicians to account as well as securing victories for the taxpayer. With our national grassroots campaign we’re out to see that you can win victories for your community. This chapter in our activist guide can help you with direct lobbying, that is pressuring politicians to do what you want them to do!
As a vindication of our ‘story creating’ chapter in the activist guide, we were alerted to the potential councillor pay rise on offer at Bournemouth Council. Seeing this, I blogged but thought that we could go further. Comments on the Bournemouth Echo website were extraordinarily hostile to the pay deal. Yet complaining on a website wouldn’t help. We had to go directly to the councillors, show the force of our numbers and introduce them to the reality on the ground – taxpayers were not happy with Bournemouth Council increasing Council Tax and increasing their pay. It just wasn’t on.
Therefore we rallied TPA activists to lobby and persuade councillors to vote against the pay deal. We may not have defeated the pay deal, but we pushed the opposition on the council to endorsing an independent, taxpayer remuneration panel so that such ridiculous increases can never happen again.
Our problem was we didn’t have enough activists lobbying Bournemouth Council. We should have had so many people email Bournemouth Council that their system should have crashed under the weight of our emails. They should have known the minute they logged into their email account that they were facing electoral disaster if they voted for that pay increase. That is what we need. That is your job. This can be your victory.
This is your campaign to stop the taxman taking your money. When set piece events such as a crucial vote at Full Council arise, set up your own lobby campaign. Here’s how to get a lobbying campaign going where you can potentially save the taxpayer money:
1. Let me know of the story at HQ so we can draft in activists nationwide to help you and raise interest in local media. But we’ll be relying on you to build the campaign up.
2. Find out when the issue affecting your borough is to be voted and where, is it on at a committee, Cabinet or full council meeting? This way we know how long we have to lobby and who we have to contact.
3. Find out the contact details of the councillors you need to lobby. You can find out either by going to the ‘Your Council’ area on the council website or by contacting the ‘Democratic Services’ department at your local council.
4. When communicating with councillors, be polite. We have the moral high ground by the virtue of our arguments, there’s no need to give it away with abusive language.
5. Then you’re set. Tell your friends, colleagues and neighbours to get lobbying; you have all the information you need to hand. You’ve made it simple to contact your local councillors and given anyone interested a timeframe to contact your councillors. Councillors will react to constituent emails first, as is the case from our Bournemouth campaign so your role is extremely important in recruiting local activists to get involved. Remember: Politicians only fear losing! So the more people in your community you get on board, the greater likelihood they will listen!
6. After sending the initial communication, wait a day or until you get a response. Then fire off your enquiry again. But keep it simple. Ask them how they will vote, why they will vote that way and if they will consider changing their mind.
7. Finally: Never give up! Our campaign can only get stronger if we can tell taxpayers that we’ve saved communities an £X value. This shows our campaign is working and that your activism in the TPA gets real results.
There must be hundreds of instances where your council is voting to throw away yet more of your money. Be it on their expenses, salaries or perks, or on pointless pork-barrel projects, their votes make it happen. You can change their vote; you can save the taxpayer money. For too long I heard the phrase “nothing will ever change”, that political action is pointless. Then I looked around, I looked long and hard at the people telling me nothing will ever change, and saw how they would give in whenever they faced difficulty. The politicians live the high life, services decline while taxes soar. They never acted and they suffered the consequences.
Are you going to give in and open your wallet to your council or government to take whatever they want whenever they like? Or are you going to stand up and do your bit? Political action needn’t be the deferring defeat to the political class, it can make a real difference to your community.