Becoming a Councillor: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The role of a councillor

Councillors are elected to develop local policy, represent local people, make decisions and plan for the future. This includes:

  • Representing the interests of the ward
  • Dealing with constituents' enquiries and representations, fairly and without prejudice
  • Listening to the needs of local people and key stakeholders to take their views into account when considering policy proposals and in decision-making
  • Championing the causes which further the interests, quality of life and sustainable development of the community
  • Developing a working knowledge of the organisations, services, activities and other factors important to a community's well-being and identity
  • Contributing to good governance and actively encouraging community participation and citizen involvement in decision-making

Councillors will also need to ensure local people are informed about:

  • services in their area
  • decisions that affect them
  • the reasons why decisions are taken by the Council
  • the rights of constituents

What areas of responsibility are Councillors involved in?

Councillors are responsible for devising and implementing policies which affect many areas of our daily lives. These include:

  • Education: provision of after school clubs, play schemes and youth centres
  • Street cleaning, rubbish collection, recycling and removal of abandoned vehicles
  • Devise crime prevention strategies and fund community warden schemes
  • Provide social services for young people, adults who need help and the elderly
  • Maintain and repair roads and street lighting, cycle paths, footpaths and bridleways
  • Upkeep local parks and play areas

Who can become a Councillor?

Below are the main legal requirements to be a Councillor; however it is not a complete list. Contact your local authority for further details.

  • 18 or over on the day of nomination
  • Have property in or work connections in the city
  • Are a UK, Irish Republic, Commonwealth or EU citizen
  • Have not been declared bankrupt

Do I need to be a member of political party?

Councillors usually represent a political party, however they can be independent.

How much time would I have to commit to the role?

Each Councillor works in their own way, therefore a fixed number of hours is not set. The number of hours would depend on your role within the council and the number of commitments you take on, which could vary from a few hours each week to a full time position. Many councillors represent the Council on one or more outside bodies. Background reading and attendance of meetings of these bodies would increase the time commitment, especially as the paperwork can be detailed and take a number of hours to read and understand.

A recent survey of Bristol councillors has revealed that many councillors effectively worked full-time, devoting 40 hours a week to their role. Although a considerable commitment, being a Councillor is an enjoyable way of contributing to your community, and helping to make it a better place to live and work.

Will I receive any form of recompense?

City Councillors receive no salary for the time they give up to serve their community. They do, however, receive allowances and an independent remuneration panel has recently recommended a basic allowance of £9,200 for all councillors. This allowance includes all local expenses.

The following councillors receive an additional allowance in recognition of their special responsibilities:-

  • Leader of the Council
  • Executive Members
  • Opposition Leaders
  • Scrutiny Commission Chairs
  • Scrutiny Vice Chairs

Is there any training available for new councillors?

Some local authorities offer an induction course for councillors and a full programme of training for their role. It is up to the individual councillor to decide if they would like to take advantage of training courses topics as:

  • Computer skills training
  • Modernisation agenda of local government e.g. Cabinet style
  • National government and European legislation
  • Equalities
  • Personal Development
  • Rapid reading and presentation skills
  • Meeting skills and chairing skills
  • Mentoring scheme for new councillors

Will my employer have to release me for council duty?

Some employers understand of the need for councillors to attend meetings during work hours and recognise the benefit of their staff undertaking civic duties. Those in employment may be entitled to some time off under the Employment Rights Act 1996, Section 50, however this is a matter best discussed with your employer. Some Councils are considering publicising the names of employers who release their staff for Council duties, to promote the community benefits of civic engagement.

When do elections take place?

City councillors serve a 4 year term and Council elections vary according to the guidelines of each authority. Some local authorities hold elections in three out of every four years, whereas others will hold elections every four years. In an election year, the formal election process begins with the publication of the Notice of Election in the last week of March, after which you may submit nomination papers to formally register your intention to stand for election. To find out if you have any elections taking place in your area, please click here:

Any questions?

Visiting your council is the best way to find out what happens there. By law, ordinary people are allowed to be present at most council meetings and are encouraged to attend. Information about public meetings can be obtained by contacting your local council directly. Click here for a list of participating local Councils.

Further Information

Fawcett Society
Campaigns for equality between women and men in the UK on pay, pensions, poverty, justice and politics.

Improvement and Development Agency for local government
National adviser to councils on equality and cohesion

Electoral Reform Society
Campaigns for electoral reform to deliver a fairer, more responsive political system for women in the UK.

London Councils - "Be a Councillor Campaign"
Working with Capital Ambition and the Leadership Centre for Local Government on the 'Be a Councillor' campaign, which is about making people more aware of the work of their local council, and councilors, with a view to encouraging more people to consider standing in the 2010 elections.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
Working to eliminate discrimination, reduce inequality, protect human rights and to build good relations, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to participate in society.

Local Government Association (LGA)
The LGA exists to promote better local government, working with and our member authorities to realise a shared vision of local government that enables local people to shape a distinctive and better future for their locality and its communities.

Centre for Women and Democracy (cfwd)
The Centre for Women & Democracy is an independent, non-partisan organisation working to increase the representation of women at all levels of public life.

National Association of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Councillors (NABAEMC)
A Cross-Party-Association for BAME Local Councillors throughout the UK; supports members with training, seminars, national conferences and networking opportunities.

National Black Women's Network
The NBWN is a non-profit organisation dedicated to raising the status and position of black women in all walks of life.

Councillors Commission
Independent Commission on the role of local Councillors, looking at the incentives and barriers to serving on councils.