Who are the aldermen and what do they do?
An alderman is a member of a municipal council or assembly in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote, or a council member elected by voters.
The title is derived from the Old English title of ealdorman, which literally means “elder man”, and which was used by the chief nobles presiding over shires. Similar titles exist in other Germanic languages, such as Ã¥lderman in Swedish, oldermann in Danish and Low German, Olderman in West Frisian, ouderman in Dutch, and Ãltermann in German. Finnish also has oltermanni, which was borrowed from Swedish. All of these words mean “elder man” or “wise man”.
The usage of the term alderman varies by country and region. Here are some examples:
- In Australia, many local government bodies used the term alderman until the 1990s, when it was replaced by councillor or mayor. An example of the use of the term alderman is evident in the City of Adelaide, where aldermen were elected from the electors in all the wards.
- In Canada, the term alderman was used for those persons elected to a municipal council to represent the wards until the late 20th century, when it was gradually replaced by councillor or mayor. Today, the title of alderman is rarely used except in some cities in Alberta and Ontario, as well as some smaller municipalities elsewhere in the country, that retain the title for historical reasons.
- In Ireland, the title alderman was abolished for local authorities by the Local Government Act 2001, with effect from the 2004 local elections. Early usage of the term mirrored that of England and Wales. Local elections since 1919 have used the single transferable vote in multiple-member electoral areas. In each electoral area of a borough or county borough, the first several candidates elected were styled alderman and the rest councillor.
- In the Netherlands, an alderman (Dutch: wethouder) is part of the municipal executive and not of the municipal council, which controls his actions in office. The alderman is comparable to the office of minister. However, the alderman cannot propose bills to the council. The alderman can be forced to resign by a vote of no confidence by the council.
- In England and Wales, an alderman was formerly a magistrate ranking next below the mayor in an English or Irish city or borough, or a high-ranking member of a borough or county council chosen by elected members. The Local Government Act 1972 abolished aldermen in county councils and most borough councils, but some cities such as London and Manchester still have honorary aldermen as a mark of distinction for former councillors.
Aldermen play an important role in local governance and administration, representing their wards or constituencies and participating in decision-making processes. They may have different powers and responsibilities depending on their jurisdiction and function.