Parish Council Vacancies

This guidance note has been put together to help parish/town councils follow the correct procedures when a casual or other vacancy arises.

Vacancies arise on a parish or town council for a number of reasons but the filling of the vacancy is dealt with in one of two ways.

  • A Casual Vacancy arises if a Councillor fails to make and deliver a Declaration of acceptance of Office, becomes disqualified (because of, for example, bankruptcy or failure to attend meetings), resigns or dies. This vacancy is dealt with by holding a by-election. If a by-election is not called in accordance with the rules then by co-option.
  • A Vacancy at an ordinary Election may arise if the number of candidates nominated for election are too few to warrant an election or to fill all the vacant seats. This vacancy is dealt with by co-option.

Casual Vacancy

Once a vacancy arises, the Clerk must contact the Returning Officer immediately to obtain a Notice of Casual Vacancy for a Parish/Town Councillor. Copies of this Notice are then displayed around the parish. This Notice states that a by-election to fill the vacancy will be held, if within 14 days (NOT COUNTING Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Good Friday, Bank Holidays, any day appointed for public thanksgiving, Saturdays and Sundays) from the date of the Notice, ten electors for the ward or parish give Notice in writing requesting an election to the Returning Officer. The Notice should also state that if no request is made to the Returning Officer, the Parish/Town Council will fill the vacancy by co-option.

Details of when the Notice was displayed must be sent immediately to the Returning Officer as she will be responsible for calculating the date of any by-election if one becomes necessary. If the required 10 requests for a poll are received in the specified time by the Returning Officer, a by-election will be held within 60 days of the date when the Notice of Vacancy was first published. Fourteen days after the date of the Notice of Vacancy, the Clerk should telephone the Returning Officer to see if a poll has been claimed by any ten electors.

If insufficient requests are received within 14 days, then the Parish/Town Council must co-opt as soon as practicable after the expiry of the 14 days. Where a vacancy occurs within six months before the day on which a councillor would have retired at the next four yearly election, parish/town councils may co-opt to fill the vacancy; most parish/town councils do. There is no need to advertise the vacancy. The point is that during that final six month period there will be no formal election to fill any vacancies.

Vacancy at an Election

A vacancy at an election may arise if the number of candidates nominated for election are too few to warrant an election or to fill all the vacant seats. This vacancy is dealt with by co-option.

If sufficient candidates have been nominated to form a quorum (normally three councillors in the smallest parish councils or one-third of the total number of councillors), they will co-opt councillors to fill the vacant seats. Vacancies must be filled within 35 days (not counting Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Good Friday, bank holidays, any day appointed for thanksgiving, Saturdays and Sundays) from the date of the election.

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