COUNCILLORS in Monmouthshire have been sharing the difficulties they have faced since taking office as part of a Welsh Assembly inquiry.

A lack of understanding about the role of local councillors, troubles maintaining a work-life balance and social media pressures are some of the issues raised by elected members.

At least one councillor at Monmouthshire County Council now regrets standing for election, a council report has revealed.

The findings, based on a ‘small number’ of conversations between councillors, will be shared with the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee as part of its investigation into diversity in local government.

Much of the responses relate to the inquiry’s focus on understanding key barriers local authorities face when attracting a more diverse pool of councillor candidates.

One such barrier outlined in the report is the difficulty of balancing a career, childcare or caring role, and being a councillor.

Councillors have suggested that the use of remote attendance and voting, something which is already being trialled by cabinet, could help.

Better use of automated channels such as apps and chatbots, which can answer resident's queries online, is also seen as a way in which some pressure could be alleviated.

In May the council announced it was working with Welsh tech firm We Build Bots to develop a chatbot service for Monmouthshire.

Some councillors have also left their full-time job during their first term to dedicate more time to the role – only to find it hard to return to employment.

Monmouthshire councillors fear a role in public office could be “misinterpreted as a career gap”, adding: "Firms don’t always understand the role of the councillor and it can often come with negative perceptions such as being opinionated."

A further barrier is the image and the distrust of politicians in general and the perceived futility of working with them that some have experienced.”

One councillor, who has not been named in the report, said: “People have stopped talking to me in the playground since they have found out that I am a councillor.

“They say ‘he’s one of them, watch what you say’ or simply don’t talk to me anymore.”

Salary issues have also been raised by councillors, with some saying the present basic allowance is more favourable to retired or wealthier individuals.

Monmouthshire councillors have also expressed a need for diversity throughout local government, including more women in senior roles, and greater representation of young people and those of BME (black and minority ethnic) backgrounds.

The report says: “Research has shown that local councillors are presently not representative of the communities they serve.

“The average councillor is white, male and on average older than the residents they serve with less than one in ten councillors under the age of 40.”

Councillors have also suggested ways to increase diversity, including a salary that was based on individual financial circumstances rather than a flat rate.

The council’s democratic services committee will discuss the draft responses at a meeting on July 16.