A survey by NOS and the Association of Councilors showed that fifteen percent of councilors have been threatened at some point, either personally or online. Aletta Makken, councilor for GroenLinks in Steenwijkerland is one of them. “I was just new as a councilor and was soon intimidated by an entrepreneur. Of course I did not succumb to that and immediately reported it to the presidium (the chairman of the council and all chairmen of groups represented in the city council, ed. )”.
Aletta Makken is shocked. “No one had warned me about this. I have not heard that it has happened to anyone else,” says Makken. “I think something like this rarely happens in Steenwijkerland.”
The file about the event location at Twente Airport easily contains 10,000 pages.
Behind the facts
In addition to threats, intimidation and online hate messages, the work on the council is also tough because of the complex files. Margarita Jeliazkova is a councilor for D66 in the Enschede city council. “The council has thirteen factions, and they therefore always consist of few people. At the same time, we have many files that we have to master. then that is almost impossible,” says Jeliazkova.
Because of those enormous files and lack of time, Jeliazkova has the feeling that he is running behind the times. “I spend about fifteen to twenty hours a week on council work. For that reason, I stopped my job at the UT and became an independent researcher. Then I can use my hours more flexibly. You still have to choose which topics you tackle and that’s frustrating.”
Most councilors satisfied
The same goes for Aletta Makken from Steenwijk. “Fortunately, we have a number of external experts for the complex files who look at it for us. Even though our municipality is smaller than Enschede. I also spend about twenty hours a week on council work. My work as a self-employed person is on the back burner. placed for council work,” says Makken.
Is it all doom and gloom then? Certainly not according to these two councilors. And according to the survey by the NOS and the Association of Council Members, neither are they: 64 percent are very satisfied, another 21 percent are reasonably satisfied with what they have achieved. Most of them became councilors because they wanted to contribute to society.
Positive feedback is greater
“It is very satisfying if your submitted motion is passed or that you can put something on the political agenda,” says Makken. After her first term as council, she is now back on the list for another term. And the same goes for Margarita Jeliazkova. “It’s not always that obvious. I just learned the job on the council. I’m continuing because I represent someone, you get the responsibility of your voters.”
The motivation is great among the two local representatives. Jeliazkova: “When I see what I have achieved in the field of illiteracy, it motivates me enormously. In addition, I believe that decent people are in the majority. The positive feedback I get is greater than that of the critical shouters”. Aletta Makken: “It is a passion, very educational and you have a lot of influence”.