What is a councillor?
Councillors are elected onto a Town/Parish/Community/Neighbourhood council to represent a specific geographical area. In smaller parishes councillors represent the whole area but larger councils are split into smaller divisions called “wards”. This is to ensure fair representation. Councillors are generally elected by the public every four years.
Who would be a Town Councillor?
Town Councillors have a lot of work and responsibility with no pay, and plenty of hassle so why be one? The main motivation for people to become Councillors is to “make things better”. Members of Parliament, District and Town Councillors are accountable to the people who elect them. Members of Parliament are concerned with national issues such as defence. NHS, immigration. District Councillors such as those on our Bradford Metropolitan council are concerned with refuse collection, transport, elderly care, young people services, and the economic regeneration of the whole Bradford/Keighley district. A Shipley Town councillor would concentrate on Shipley, they have powers to do a wide range of things, in fact anything which is legal but they have no statutory duties. Therefore they can work together to discuss issues and make decisions which they believe will benefit those they represent.
What do councillors do?
Councillors have three main components to their work.
- Decision making – through meetings and attending committees councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented.
- Monitoring – councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working;
- Getting involved locally – as local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. These may include:
- Going to meetings of local organisations such as tenants’ associations
- Going to meetings of bodies affecting the wider community
- Taking up issues on behalf of members of the public
- Running a surgery for residents to bring up issues
How much time does being a councillor take up?
This depends on the individual councillor. What is important is that when you are elected as a councillor you have a duty to attend meetings. Whilst you may have volunteered to be a councillor it is important to remember that it is a statutory role and with the office comes responsibility. In the main, being a community, parish or town councillor is an enjoyable way of contributing to your community, and helping to make it a better place to live and work.
Can I be a councillor?
So long as you meet the qualification criteria (see how are councillors elected) unless you are disqualified for any of the following reasons:
- You are subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order;
- You have, within five years before the date of election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine.
- You work for the council you want to become a councillor for (but you can work for other authorities, including BMDC that represent the same area).
How are councillors elected?
Councillors are elected by secret ballot, normally timed to coincide with the BMDC and other elections. Anyone can stand as a councillor so long as they meet the qualification criteria.
- Be 18 years of age or over at the date of your nomination and a British or Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the Republic of Ireland or a citizen of another member state of the European Union.
- Be a registered local government elector for the parish both on the day you are nominated and election day; or
- Have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the parish during the whole of the twelve months before the day you are nominated; or
- Your principal or only place of work in the twelve months before the day you are nominated has been in the parish; or
- You must have lived in the parish or within 4.8 kilometres (3 miles), during the whole of the twelve months before the day you are nominated.
If the council has a vacancy, then subject to satisfying regulations, it may co-opt as part of the election process. This means that it can appoint a qualifying person to the council for the unexpired term of office. Your local councils association can advise on how this is done.
To stand for office you must obtain a nomination paper from the returning officer for your principal council. This must be signed by a Proposer and a Seconder then returned to the returning officer by the time stipulated.
How are decisions taken?
The council makes decisions by councillors voting. A proposal is carried so long as it has the majority of votes cast. In the event of a tie, the Chair (or Mayor) also has a casting vote. The same rules apply to committees and sub committees.
I am not a member of a political party and do not want to be!
Most community, parish and town councillors are not party political. If you wish to stand as a party political candidate, you are welcome to do so but would need permission from the party you are a member of.