The Role of a District Councillor

Contents 

Introduction

Bassetlaw District Council is keen to ensure that its Elected Members are of the highest possible calibre: they are elected for the right reasons and, once elected, play a full part in the life of the Council.

Without hard working and committed Elected Members Bassetlaw District Council will not be able to deliver its objectives and improve the District for its residents, businesses and visitors.

Being a District Councillor

Being a District Councillor can be a rewarding experience but it is not an easy task. Society needs people, whether at a national or local level, who are able, willing, and prepared to take decisions about matters that affect the lives of citizens and who are prepared to be accountable for these decisions.

Democratic election gives local Councillors a special status in public life; it brings with it opportunities to contribute to society, but also responsibilities to act fairly and within the law.

There are a number of key activities that Councillors are involved in. These activities can take up a considerable amount of time and does require work in evenings and at weekends. The precise amount of time you spend on Council duties will depend on your role and the commitments you take on. Talking to Councillors the time commitment ranges from five hours a week to thirty hours or more if you have leading roles within the Council e.g. the Leader of the Council or a Committee Chair.

Seven Principles of Public Life

Members must observe the ‘7 Nolan principles of public life’, as set out in the Members’ 4. Key Activities of District Councillors Code of Conduct. These are:

Selflessness: Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty: Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Leadership: Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

Who Provides which Service?

Service District Council County Council Parish & Town Council
Allotments  
Archives    
Arts Promotion
Bus Shelters    
Car Parks  
Careers Advisory Service    
Cemeteries / Crematoria  
Council Tax Collections    
Concessionary Fares    
Consumer Advice    
Coroner's Service    
Country Parks  
Day Centres    
Ditches / culverts    
Dog Warden    
Drains    
Economic Development  
Education    
Elderly Persons' Accommodation  
Emergency Planning  
Elderly Persons' Accommodation  
Emergency Planning  
Environmental Health    
Highways    
Housing - Benefits    
Housing - Repairs    
Libraries    
Local Licences    
Magistrates' Courts    
Museums and Art Galleries   
Parks and Open Spaces  
Planning and Building Control  
Probation of Offenders    
Public Footpaths and Bridleways
Recreation Facilities
Refuse Collection    
Refuse Disposal    
Reg. of Births, Deaths and Marriages    
Registrations of Electors    
Road and Pavement Maintenance    
Social Services    
Sports  
Street Cleaning  
Tourism      
Trading Standards    
Traffic Control and Road Safety    
Wardens    
Welfare Rights    
Youth Centres    


Key Activities of District Councillors

Serving the Community

Providing public services is the main function of local government. No other public body provides the range of services that a local Council does. Providing services to meet community needs requires the development of policies about the services to be provided and the planning, delivery, and resourcing of those services. Councillors, will therefore have a role as:

  • policy makers
  • decision takers
  • scrutineers of the effectiveness of the Council in delivering services

Representing the Community

Councillors are elected and have democratic legitimacy. They represent the people within their communities (including those who did not vote for them). Councillors, therefore, act as:

  • representatives of their constituents
  • community leaders providing a focus for development and improvement within their Ward and in some cases the District

Working with Others

Councils not only need to plan and deliver their own services, there is an expectation that District Councils will take the lead in drawing together the activities of the whole range of public bodies, and the business and voluntary sectors in their area. This means identifying a common agenda and linking the plans of partner organisations with the Council’s to address the needs of communities together.

Councils also work in a national framework with Government and Parliament and with other agencies. Councillors fulfil an ambassadorial role not only on behalf of their own ward, but also representing the interests of Bassetlaw District in a wider arena. “A District Councillor is never off duty” – once elected the public will always think of you as a Councillor so how we act will be scrutinised.

 Making Rules and Regulations

District Councils have three roles. These are:

  • administering rules that Parliament has laid down
  • making rules of its own
  • administering its own rules

By participating in making or administering rules that affect the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and which include the granting or refusal of permissions, Councillors, therefore:

  • pay attention to relevant considerations (and ignore irrelevant ones)
  • consider and weigh up the evidence on each issue on its merits
  • act fairly and within the law

All the above impact upon the skills and attributes required of a Councillor. Further information on the role of Councillors may be found on the Local Government Association’s website. Further information will be given to you to help you with your role once you are elected.

Main Duties of a Councillor

The following are the main duties of a District Councillor:

  Duty How this fits with the Key Activities of Councillors
1 Regular attendance at meetings of the Council, and of any Committee, Sub-Committee, or Working Group to which the Councillor is appointed. Policy making, scrutiny, and decision making
2 Dealing with issues raised by constituents by correspondence, phone, e-mail, in person, and being accessible to constituents, including surgeries or in other ways. Representative role
3 Actively being aware of issues, inside and outside the Council, affecting the electoral ward and the wider Bassetlaw District. Community leadership and representative role
4 Working in partnership with Parish/Town Councils and other local organisations to identify and pursue local needs and aspirations and encouraging community action. Community leadership and representative role.
5 Representing Bassetlaw District Council on other organisations or agencies, to which the Councillor may be appointed/nominated. Ambassadorial role, articulating the Council’s policies and views and projecting a positive image of the Council
6 Attend meetings, events, and activities, both as a Ward Member and as a representative of Bassetlaw District Council, and report back to the Council on residents’ views/concerns to ensure they are heard and considered. Role in the decision making process
7 Abide by the Council’s Constitution and comply with the Council’s Code of Conduct for Members and maintain the highest standards of conduct and ethics in the performance of all Council duties and associated activities Serving the community


Cabinet Decision Making Process

  1. Cabinet Decision
  2. Reports to Cabinet with Recs
  3. Cabinet Members Meeting
  4. Cabinet Member pre-agenda
  5. Officer pre-agenda
  6. Early discussions with Portfolio Holders - inclusion on Forward Plan 2. 
  7. Process is key:
    • Relevant, timely, accurate information
    • Consideration of legislation/regulations/finance driving the decision
    • Taking of professional advice from officers
    • Consultations/discussion with 3rd parties
    • Full engagement with portfolio holders
    • Does a budget exist for the proposal
    • Financial Refs and Legal Refs
    • Options, Risks - Reasons
    • Confidential? - Public Interest Test

Skills & Training

Attributes and Skills

To fulfil the role of District Councillor, councillors should have a range of personal beliefs and practical skills:

  • commitment to public service and to Bassetlaw
  • desire to contribute to the well-being of the community
  • ability to assimilate a range of information
  • analytical skills that enable objective and fair decision-taking
  • empathy in dealing with constituents
  • communication skills to enable the Councillor to articulate the needs of their constituents as well as the policies and aspirations of the Council
  • negotiation skills and diplomacy to resolve often conflicting points of view and contentious issues
  • knowledge of budgeting, leading to understanding local government finance
  • IT literacy
  • time to commit to fulfilling the role of Councillor, including training and Members’ briefings
  • knowledge and commitment to recognising diversity and equal opportunities

The skills that a Councillor needs are complex and diverse and fall into three areas:

Core Skills/Knowledge

Appropriate skills to enable the role of Councillor to be undertaken effectively. Members are expected to attend/complete a suite of workshops and training sessions that will give them the core skills/ knowledge to fulfil the role. Some of these sessions will be mandatory

Specialist Skills/Knowledge

Some specialist skills are required to be involved in particular areas of the Council’s work, e.g. Planning, Licensing, etc. In the case of Planning and Licensing, Members may not serve on these committees without specific training. Where Members have specialist skills/knowledge in any particular area, they are invited to tell their party/group leader so that these skills may be utilised to the benefit of the District.

Development Skills

Personal development that will assist the District Councillor carrying out his/her role.

Training

Bassetlaw District Council is committed to helping Members carry out their role and provides training opportunities that Councillors are encouraged to take up. To play a full part as a Councillor, there is a need for all Members to be aware of the opportunities for training that are provided and the benefits it is intended to bring. As mentioned previously some training will be compulsory.

An annual training programme is developed for councillors. The 2019/20 programme will be provided to you, should you be elected.

All training must be approved in advance. Some courses are free but still involve travel costs so , again must be approved. If you attend a course it is expected you will prepare and store notes.

Mentors

This year any new Member will be given the offer of having a ‘Mentor’. They will provide you with support and guidance to help you in your new role. More information on this will be supplied once you are elected.

Member allowances

Councillors do not receive a salary. However, they do get a Members Allowance in recognition of their time and expenses incurred while on Council business. 

Members can also claim for approved mileage/travel costs and some food and drink costs if you are away from home on official Council business.

The basic allowance for Members is currently £4,674. Members also receive allowances when they take on extra responsibility e.g. Chairs of Committees.


Last Updated on Tuesday, June 30, 2020