How to become a councillor
Parish councillors are elected by the public and serve four-year terms. Following elections, councils appoint a chair, or town mayor in town councils.
Parish councillors were unpaid positions until 2004 when allowance schemes were introduced to encourage more people to stand. Allowances, which tend not to be very large are at the discretion of the individual councils and they often choose to maintain a strictly unpaid status.
The Election Procedure Ordinary elections of local councillors take place on the first Thursday in May every four years. For most local councils election year is 2003, 2007 etc. but where the principal authority (county, district and unitary authority) councillor is elected in some other year that is also the year of the local council election. Reorganisation of local government may cause alteration of the election day and election year in some cases.
The election timetable is as follows:
• Publication of notice of election: Not later than the twenty-fifth day before the day of election.
• Delivery of Nomination papers: Not later than noon on the nineteenth day before the day of election.
• Publication of list of candidates: Not later than noon on the seventeenth day before the day of election.
• Delivery of notices of withdrawals of candidature: Not later than noon on the sixteenth day before the day of election.
• Notice of Poll: Not later than the sixth day before the day of election.
• Polling: Between 07:00 and 22:00 on the day of election.
In calculating the timetable the Bank holidays and weekends are disregarded.
A prospective candidate must deliver or send by post to the Returning Officer a valid nomination paper. This form is obtained from the Officer. The candidate's surname, forenames, residence and description (if required) must be entered and his or her number and prefix letter from the current register of electors. The Returning Officer has a copy of this register, and the clerk of the local council normally has one.
The nomination paper must also contain similar particulars of a proposer and a seconder. They must be electors for the area for which the candidate seeks election (i.e. the parish, community or town or the ward if it is divided into
wards): they must sign it.
The returning officer appointed by a principal authority (district, borough, county or unitary authority) is the person responsible for the conduct and arrangement for community, parish and town council elections. If you are considering becoming a candidate for election it could be wise to contact the Returning
Officer to obtain any more detailed information. Also for more information about what life is like as councillor contact your local County Association of Local Councils or alternatively your local community, parish or town council.
But the election is not for a few years
If a seat becomes vacant mid-term (or if there are not enough candidates to fill all council seats at election time) the council will hold a by-election. In certain circumstances the council may then co-opt members to the council.