Guide to becoming a Parish or Town Councillor
What is a parish or town council?
What do Parish Councils do?
How can I make a difference?
What are parish or town councils?
Parish and town councils are the most local part of our democratic system, a part of local government and the closest to the public. They have statutory powers and some duties. They spend money raised from the community, through a precept on the council tax, on projects and services.
What do they do?
They have a variety of powers given to them by various Acts of Parliament. Some are rather old-fashioned for today's lifestyle, but most are up to date and important. For example, a parish council can provide CCTV or contribute to the installation of traffic control measures.
Attending a council meeting is the best way to find out what they do. Give your Parish or Town Council a call and find out when its next public meeting is scheduled to take place.
How do they make decisions?
A parish or town council is made up of a number of councillors who meet regularly to collectively make decisions on the work and direction of the council. As elected bodies, parish and town councils are responsible to the people they represent - the local community.
Where do they get their money from?
Each year a sum on money called a "precept" is collected through a council tax. This money is used by parish or town councils to improve facilities and services for local people. Parish or town councils can also apply for grants or loans and, if they own property, can receive money from rents or leases.
How are parish and town councillors elected?
They are elected by people who live in a geographical area known as a ward or - mainly in smaller parishes - the parish or town council area as a whole. If the parish is divided into wards an election is held in each ward, the same way elections are held in district wards and in county electoral divisions. If the parish does not have wards there is just a single parish election.
Who can vote in parish or town council elections?
To vote in any election you need to be registered. You can do this by contacting the electoral services at your local district or borough council or visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk to download a registration form.
Anyone can register to vote when they are aged 16 years or over but you can only vote when you are 18. To vote in a parish or town council election you need to be a British citizen, Irish citizen, European Union citizen of a Commonwealth country (including Cyprus and Malta).
Who can become a Parish Councillor?
Most people can. There are no formal qualifications required. However, there are a few rules, you have to be : British Citizen, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union, and aged 18 year or older on the day you become nominated for election.
Who cannot stand for election?
Anyone who is the subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order; has within five years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and has had a prison sentence (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine; and you cannot become a Councillor if you are an employee of that council.
What does the day-today work of a councillor include?
Attending meetings of local organisations such as tenants' association, bodies that affect the wider community, such as the police, the Highways Authority, schools and colleges.
Taking up issues on behalf of members of the public, such as making representations to the district or borough council.
Running a surgery or meeting residents to bring up or discuss issues.
What do Parish or town councillors do?
As a councillor you can become a voice for your community and effect real change. Councillors are community leaders and represent the aspirations of the public that they serve.
Councillors have three main area of work:
Decision Making: through attending meetings and committees with other elected members, 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: as local representatives, councillors have responsibilities towards their constituents and local organisations. However, the time spent on this depends on what the councillor wants to achieve.
Where can I obtain further information?
Contact your local parish or town council.
You can make a difference ......
Your Parish or Town Council works for your community and to be fully effective it should represent, and be representative of, the whole community.
If you have answered yes to any of these questions then you should become a Parish or Town Councillor. You never know, it may open up a whole new career for you!.
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