Can I be a councillor?
If you care about the area that you live or work in and the issues facing local people, you could be a councillor. Perhaps you enjoy reading the local newspaper and often have a strong opinion on the issues you read about. You may enjoy talking to friends and colleagues about what’s going on in the area. You may feel that certain sections of the community or people who live in a particular neighbourhood are getting a raw deal and need stronger representation. Your local council can make a difference on all these issues and many more, and so can you as a local councillor.
What matters to you in your local area?
Is it the condition of the local park, the need for more activities for young people, improving services for older people, making the roads safer or ensuring that local businesses can thrive?
Whatever needs changing in your community, you could be just the person to change it by becoming a local councillor. No other role gives you a chance to make such a huge difference to quality of life for people in your local area.
There are roughly 20,000 local councillors in England, each representing their local community and all with their own reason for doing so. You may already have an idea of the type of people who stand as local councillors, but this image could be outdated. Councils are particularly keen to encourage people from under-represented groups to get involved, such as younger people, people from England’s many ethnic communities and disabled people. Women are also under-represented on local councils. You could be the fresh new talent that your council is looking for. Are you ready to help change the face of local government?
What is the role of a Town councillor?
Councillors are elected to the local council to represent their local community, so they must either live or work in the area. Becoming a councillor is both a rewarding and privileged form of public service. You will be in a position to make a difference to the quality of other people’s daily lives and prospects. Being an effective councillor requires both commitment and hard work.
Councillors have to balance the needs and interests of residents and the Council. These will all make legitimate demands on a councillor’s time, on top of the demands and needs of their personal and professional lives. Before you consider becoming a councillor you may want to discuss it with your family and friends to make sure they understand what you are taking on. You will need their support as you’ll have to spend some of your spare time on Council business.
Please note: Being a town councillor is a voluntary role.
As a local councillor, your residents will expect you to:
- respond to their queries and investigate their concerns
- communicate Council decisions that affect them
- know your patch and be aware of any problems
- know and work with representatives of local organisations, interest groups and businesses
- represent their views at Council meetings
What do I need to become a councillor?
To become a councillor, candidates must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be British or a citizen of the Commonwealth or European Union
- Registered to vote in the area or have lived, worked or owned property there for at least 12 months before an election
- must not be declared bankrupt
- must not have had a criminal conviction within the last five years which involved a custodial sentence of three months or more.
Do I need any special skills or experience to be a councillor?
Groups made up of diverse individuals tend to make better informed decisions. It is important that councils have councillors who not only reflect and represent the communities they serve, but also have a broad range of skills and life experience. You don’t have to be highly educated or have a profession. Skills gained through raising a family, caring for a sick or disabled relative, volunteering or being active in faith or community groups can be just as valuable.
While you don’t need any special qualifications to be a councillor, having or being able to develop the following skills, knowledge and attributes will help you in the role.
• Communication skills – these include listening and interpersonal skills, public speaking skills, the ability to consider alternative points of view, to negotiate, mediate and resolve conflict and to engage with the local community.
• Problem solving and analytical skills – this includes being able to get to the bottom of an issue and to think of different ways to resolve it, including considering the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
• Team working – being able to work with others in meetings and on committees and being able to complete any tasks that you agree to do on time.
• Organisational skills – being able to plan and manage your time, keep appointments and meet deadlines.
You may have to make yourself available through meetings, the media, the internet, public forums, debates and on the telephone.
You may have gained skills and knowledge through your professional, personal or community experience.
These could include:
• knowledge of the needs of specific groups such as children and young people, older people or people with health problems
• an understanding of financial management and reporting processes
• legal and regulatory systems or procedures
• housing, regeneration or environmental issues
• any other skills that relate to the work or facilities provided by the Council.
Don’t worry if you don’t yet feel that you have the skills or confidence to be a councillor. All Councils provide support, information and training for new councillors.
Will I get paid for being a councillor?
Councillors do not receive a salary. It is a voluntary role.
How much time you spend on your duties as a councillor is largely up to you and will depend on the particular commitments you take on. One Council estimates the time commitment as around 15 hours a week. Your role within the Council will determine how much time you spend on Council duties. You will be expected to attend Council meetings, which are mostly held in the evening so that councillors can attend after work. As with most things in life, what you get back will depend on how much you put in. But remember, the amount of time you give to it is almost entirely up to you.
Why should I become a councillor?
There are many reasons why people decide to become a local councillor including:
• wanting to make a difference and be involved in shaping the future of the local community
• being concerned about your local area and wanting to ensure that the community gets the right services
• wanting to represent the views of local people and ensure that community interests are taken into account
• wanting to contribute your business or professional skills and give back to your community