How to become a councillor

Have you ever thought of becoming a Councillor?

It would give you the opportunity to represent the people who live in your area and who share your views or policies. You would have a say in decisions such as levels of council tax and how it should be spent.

Anyone can be elected as a ward councillor, either as a member of a political party or as an independent representative.

The borough consists of 21 wards and each has between one and three councillors dependent on the number of voters in the ward.

Borough and County Council elections are held every four years (normally in the month of May). The next borough elections are due to take place on 7th May 2015. These elections will be combined with the General Parliamentary election.

The election process starts at the end of March when nomination papers need to be completed. These are normally available around the middle of March from the Elections Team.

Each candidate needs to obtain the signatures of 10 registered voters who are willing to support the nomination for the ward being contested.

To be eligible to become a candidate you must meet the following criteria:-

  • be 18 and over
  • be an UK, EU or Commonwealth citizen
  • be a registered voter within the Borough or live, work in or occupy as owner or tenant land or property within the borough.

Any costs incurred by you as a candidate such as the printing of posters and leaflets must be borne by you. There are also rules as to how much you may spend on publicity and other costs and a return of all expenditure and income must be completed after the election. There are also rules about what must be printed on such literature regarding printers and publishers.

You may wish to appoint an agent to help you deal with all of the work involved and help you with complying with all the regulations. Forms for this will be included in the nomination pack.

For more information contact Electoral Services helpline on 01283 508376.

You have won the election – What next?

How much of your time will being a Councillor take up?

This depends on your role within the council and could range from a few hours a week to several hours a day. You should be prepared to commit some time each week in order to carry out your role effectively. Obviously, as your responsibilities increase, so also would the time element.

Most of the meetings will take place in the evening, commencing at 6.30pm but there are some meetings held during the day.

For most of these meetings, agendas/reports will be available which should be read prior to the meeting so that the decision making process can run smoothly.

If upon having read the agenda you feel that you would like to discuss one or more of the items in greater detail or if you require clarification regarding any of the information provided then please do not hesitate to contact the relevant officer or department for a discussion prior to the meeting.

Your constituents will approach you for help from time to time. You will probably receive some post in addition to that delivered by the council and your phone may be ringing at times that you may not consider to be ‘a reasonable hour’.

Many councillors hold monthly surgeries where people can speak to you about their problems.

Time off work

By law, your employer must allow you a reasonable amount of time off work to perform your duties as Councillor (Employment Rights Act 1996. s50). The amount of time allowed will depend on your responsibilities as Councillor and the effect it would have on your employers business.

Support

After elections, there will be an induction programme for new Councillors to help you find your way around the Council and the way it operates and many committees provide specific training around their roles,

Agendas and Minutes

Agendas for meetings will be sent out to you at least five working days before a meeting and are available on the Council's Minutes and Agendas system. Occasionally supplementary items will be sent later or circulated at the meeting.

Following the meeting, minutes will be prepared and distributed to the Chair, key officers and Councillors.

Code of Conduct

As a Councillor, you are expected to have a high standard of behaviour. The Constitution will go into this in more detail for you at 5A.

You must read and understand this particular section as you will be asked to sign an undertaking that you will abide by the code before formally being accepted as a councillor.

If you fail to sign your acceptance of office, including the Code of Conduct, within a specified period your seat will be declared vacant and another election will be held. Any breaches may be reported to the Council’s Standards Committee.