Chris Williams, Chief Executive, Buckinghamshire County Council has said:

Anyone presented with the opportunity to influence the running of an organisation with a customer base of more than half a million, and an £849 million budget, would kick themselves if they missed it.

So I want to make sure every one of the 389,738 people in the county eligible to vote grasps their opportunity on Thursday 2 May to influence the way Buckinghamshire County Council is run.

County Council elections happen once every four years. Last time, in June 2009, that democratic influence was made by 149,316 – or just 40 per cent – of Buckinghamshire’s voters.

I believe the County Council is more important to our residents’ lives than ever before. Our roles, for instance, in looking after education and social services, overseeing highways and transport, and disposing of the county’s rubbish are well-known to most who take an interest in their community.

However, what is not so commonly known is our vital duty as a backstop – particularly in regards to health and crime. Our members carry out a crucial scrutiny function aimed at providing a democratic safeguard where perhaps otherwise there is none.

Since the creation of the new commissioners last November, we have been running a 20-member committee serving all councils in the Thames Valley, with a specific objective to monitor the work of the Police and Crime Commissioner on behalf of the public.

Councillors who carry out these important scrutiny functions, are the same people who make decisions about spending taxpayers’ money on services that affect the lives of every resident in Buckinghamshire – from the cradle to the grave.

In Britain we’re fortunate to have the freedom to decide whether or not to vote. The law that enshrines this right ensures confidentiality, and protects us from coercion to cast our vote in a particular way.

It’s our choice.

This has been our right for more than 150 years, persuasively legislated by our own Buckinghamshire statesman and Prime Minister of Victorian times, Benjamin Disraeli, and hard-won for women through the suffrage campaign of the early 20th century.

Voting is central to our democratic life: we learn it at school through selecting student leadership, we exercise it to select those who lead our community clubs and societies, we use it to elect the people we want to represent us on our local councils.

The ballot box is a truly powerful influence.

In my view it’s very difficult to complain about the council policies that shape our lives and communities if we haven’t exercised our democractic right to vote, to influence decision-making for the future.

It takes about four minutes to cast your vote. But you will be influencing the shape of your community over the next four years.

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