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How do I become a councillor?

See also:

Introduction

Councillors play an important part of ensuring their community's needs are met by making sure that the council aims to work closely with its communities to improve the quality of life for all its resident. Councillors give attention to a wide range of issues when making decisions, the environment, prosperity, equalities and social inclusion.

Councillors are likely to be involved in a wide variety of duties:

  • Preparing for and attending meetings
  • Speaking on behalf of the community
  • Public consultation and campaigning
  • Policy formulation
  • Liaising with council staff
  • Dealing with casework
  • Meeting individual residents
  • Representing the council at other meetings
  • Attending party group meetings
  • Looking at the services the council provides
  • Monitoring the performance of the council
  • Composing speeches
  • Writing articles
  • Meeting and representing you

If you have ever had concerns about the future of local services and felt that you could be a voice for your community in pursuing the public interest, then you should consider becoming a councillor. Those already working in local government find the role interesting and challenging and there is the opportunity to specialise in a particular topic or area of interest. However, do not expect to be able to change the world overnight.

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Legal requirements to be a Councillor

To stand for election, on the day of nomination, you must be:

  • 18 or over,
  • and a UK, EU or Commonwealth Citizen,
  • and
    • either be registered to vote on the current register with the local council
    • or have either worked or lived in the council's area for one year
    • been an owner or tenant of any land or premises in the council's area for one year

You cannot stand if:

  • you work for your local council,
  • or you hold a politically restricted post for another authority,
  • or you are subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order,
  • or you have served a prison sentence (including suspended sentences) of three months or more within five years prior to the election,
  • or you have been disqualified under any legislation relating to corrupt or illegal practices.

You do not need any formal qualifications to become a councillor.

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Becoming a councillor

The majority of people become councillors as a result of joining a political party. However, some people stand for election as an independent (a candidate who does not belong to any political party), or pressure groups, such as the Ratepayer's Association.

The Electoral Commission's website contains information for prospective candidates on all elections - you can find on the:

See also:

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Do I need a deposit?

A deposit is not needed for local government elections.

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How long am I a councillor?

The term of office is four years. At the end of this time you can retire or stand for re-election.

You can choose to retire at any time.

If you stand to replace a councillor who has retired during the year (not at a scheduled election) you will serve as a councillor for the remainder of that person's term of office. Standing as a member of a political party.

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Standing as a member of a Political Party

If you are thinking of standing as a candidate for a particular Political Party, then you will need to be a Member of that Party's local organisation. The Parties currently represented on the council and their local contact details (in alphabetical order by party) are:

Adur District Council

See also: Find out more about the councillors at Adur District Council

Worthing Borough Council

See also: Find out more about the councillors at Worthing Borough Council

More information on political parties

For more information on the above political parties and any others you are interested in, visit the:

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Standing as an independent councillor

The Independent Group on the Local Government Association has prepared a 'Handy Hints' guide for Independent Councillors and candidates.

If you would like a copy of the guide please contact:

  • Head of Independent Group
    Local Government Association (LGA)
    LGA House
    Smith Square
    London
    SW1P 3HZ
    Tel : 020 7664 3000

Or see:

See also:

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Publications

There is a very good book in the 'How to ...' range available from the library service in West Sussex entitled 'How to ... be a local councillor' by Peter Arnold.

It is a useful book taking you through the stages from decision and commitment, the election process to being a new councillor and developing a public life.

First published in 1992 (it is now out of print), but you may be able to find a copy to purchase on the internet, eg:

See also:

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Do I need an agent?

Candidates normally appoint an agent to act on their behalf. Election agents receive all correspondence and notices from the council, are entitled to attend the opening of postal votes and the counting of votes. Agents must make an expenses return to the local authority within the specified period.

Counting agents attend the counting of votes to oversee the counting process.

It is not necessary to appoint an agent; candidates may act as their own agent.

See also:

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Campaigning expenses / How much can I spend on campaigning?

The amount available to spend is calculated prior to each election and will be included in the nomination pack.

Details of expenses must be submitted to the authority within 35 days after the election.

Candidates are not allowed to pay helpers for leaflet distribution.

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What do I do next? (Nomination pack)

Once you have decided to stand for election as a councillor you will need to be proposed and then seconded by another and also have eight further people as assenters to your nomination. A total of ten people to support you (all registered local electors).

Full details of the electoral process including the nomination procedure is available by contacting the Electoral services department.

The nomination pack includes nomination forms, timetables and guidance notes.

The timetable for the next local election is available on request or on the:

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Candidate's seminar

As a candidate in a forthcoming election you will be invited to a candidate's and election agent's seminar.

Further information is available on this seminar by contacting Electoral services.

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Once elected, what support will I get?

As a new councillor, you will be invited to take part in an induction programme, introducing you to the workings of the council. Training for councillors continues throughout their term of office on a variety of relevant topics.

The professional officers working at the council are available to assist you in any way they can, such as advice about council procedures or problems in your ward. As all officers must be politically impartial, they cannot assist in any matter that could be seen as supporting a political party or pressure group.

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Code of conduct

If elected to the council you will be required to sign the council's Code of Conduct, which is a public document open to public inspection by request. To see a copy of the of the Code of Conduct please see:

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Payments to councillors

Currently there are two types of allowances for councillors:

  • Basic Allowance (paid to all councillors)
  • Special Responsibility Allowance (paid to those councillors who carry out special duties such as being the chairman of a committee)

Each local authority can decide how to pay these allowances but are required to set up independent panels to recommend local schemes of allowances.

In addition, councillors can claim for travel and subsistence allowances. A carer's allowance is also available.

Councillors no longer have the option to join the Local Government Pension Scheme.

For more details see:

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How much time will I spend on council duties?

Some councillors may spend each week between 12 and 15 hours on council work, but there are huge variations. Those with an executive or chairing role will have a greater workload.

Adur District Council

  • most meetings are held at the Shoreham Centre in Pond Road, Shoreham-by-Sea, starting at 7:00pm
  • some are held at other venues in the Adur District
  • some are held at Worthing Town Hall
  • joint meetings start at 6:30pm

Worthing Borough Council

  • most meetings are held at the Worthing Town Hall, Chapel Road starting at 6:30pm
  • some are held at Adur District Council venues
  • joint meetings start at 6:30pm

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Details and dates of meetings

For details of upcoming meetings please see:

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Other sources of information on becoming a councillor

The following external websites offer other sources of information on becoming a councillor:

See also:

Political Party websites (in alphabetical order):

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