Becoming a councillor

Contents

Introduction

Councillors play an important part of ensuring their community's needs are met by making sure that the council aims to work closely with its communities to improve the quality of life for all its resident. Councillors give attention to a wide range of issues when making decisions, the environment, prosperity, equalities and social inclusion.

Councillors are likely to be involved in a wide variety of duties:

  • Preparing for and attending meetings
  • Speaking on behalf of the community
  • Public consultation and campaigning
  • Policy formulation
  • Liaising with council staff
  • Dealing with casework
  • Meeting individual residents
  • Representing the council at other meetings
  • Attending party group meetings
  • Looking at the services the council provides
  • Monitoring the performance of the council
  • Composing speeches
  • Writing articles
  • Meeting and representing you

If you have ever had concerns about the future of local services and felt that you could be a voice for your community in pursuing the public interest, then you should consider becoming a councillor.

Those already working in local government find the role interesting and challenging and there is the opportunity to specialise in a particular topic or area of interest. However, do not expect to be able to change the world overnight.

Legal requirements to be a Councillor

To be able to stand as a candidate, on the day of nomination and on the day of election you must be:

  • Aged 18 years or over
  • Either a UK or Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Irish Republic or a citizen of a member state of the European Union

In addition, you must meet at least one of the following qualifications:

  • On the day of nomination and the day of the election you are and thereafter you continue to be registered as a voter in the District
  • For the whole of twelve months before the day of nomination and the day of the election you have occupied any land or other premises as owner or tenant in the District
  • For the whole of twelve months before the day of nomination and the day of the election your principal or only place of work has been in the District
  • For the whole of twelve months before the day of nomination and the day of the election you have resided in the District

You cannot stand if:

  • you work for the local council,
  • or you hold a politically restricted post for another authority,
  • or you are subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order,
  • or you have served a prison sentence (including suspended sentences) of three months or more within five years prior to the election,
  • or you have been disqualified under any legislation relating to corrupt or illegal practices.

You do not need any formal qualifications to become a councillor.

Becoming a councillor

The majority of people become councillors as a result of joining a political party. However, some people stand for election as an independent (a candidate who does not belong to any political party).

The Electoral Commission's website contains information for prospective candidates on all elections.

Frequently asked questions about the role

When are the next local elections?

The next local elections will take place on 4 May 2023.

You can find more details about local authorities and when elections take place.

The Electoral Commission also provide a ‘look-up’ of elections in your area.

Do I need a deposit?

A deposit is not needed for local government elections.

How long am I a councillor?

The term of office is four years. At the end of this time you can retire or stand for re-election. You can choose to retire at any time.

If you stand to replace a councillor who has retired during the year (not at a scheduled election) you will serve as a councillor for the remainder of that person's term of office.

Standing as a member of a political party.

If you are thinking of standing as a candidate for a particular Political Party, then you will need to be a Member of that Party's local organisation.

Standing as an independent councillor

The Independent Group on the Local Government Association has information about standing as an independent councillor - https://www.local.gov.uk/lga-independent/our-work/be-councillor

Do I need an agent?

Candidates normally appoint an agent to act on their behalf. Election agents receive all correspondence and notices from the council, are entitled to attend the opening of postal votes and the counting of votes. Agents must make an expenses return to the local authority within the specified period.

Counting agents attend the counting of votes to oversee the counting process.

It is not necessary to appoint an agent; candidates may act as their own agent.

Campaigning expenses / How much can I spend on campaigning?

The amount available to spend is calculated prior to each election and will be included in the nomination pack.

Details of expenses must be submitted to the authority within 35 days after the election.

Candidates are not allowed to pay helpers for leaflet distribution.

What do I do next?

Once you have decided to stand for election as a councillor you will need to complete and submit a nomination pack by the deadline. The nomination form will need you to be proposed and then seconded by another and also have eight further people as assenters to your nomination. A total of ten people to support you (all registered local electors).

Full details of the electoral process including the nomination procedure is available by contacting the Electoral services department.

The nomination pack includes nomination forms, timetables and guidance notes.

Candidate's and Agents Briefing

Prior to an election a candidates and agents briefing will be held, details will be sent to local political parties and the details published on our website. 

Further information is available on this seminar by contacting Electoral services.

Once elected, what support will I get?

As a new councillor, you will be invited to take part in an induction programme, introducing you to the workings of the council. Training for councillors continues throughout their term of office on a variety of relevant topics.

We have Member Support and all Officers working at the council are available to assist you in any way they can, such as advice about council procedures or problems in your ward.  As all officers must be politically impartial, they cannot assist in any matter that could be seen as supporting a political party or pressure group.

Code of conduct

If elected to the council you will be required to sign the council's Code of Conduct.

Payments to councillors

Currently there are two types of allowances for councillors:

  • Basic Allowance (paid to all councillors)
  • Special Responsibility Allowance (paid to those councillors who carry out special duties such as being the chairman of a committee)

Each local authority can decide how to pay these allowances but are required to set up independent panels to recommend local schemes of allowances.

In addition, councillors can claim for travel and subsistence allowances. A carer's allowance is also available.

How much time will I spend on council duties?

Time spent on council duties varies depending on the number of Committees you sit on, the vast majority of Councillors have full time jobs, families and hobbies. View details of upcoming meetings


Last Updated on Monday, April 4, 2022