Guide to Being a Councillor

To be or not to be a Councillor?

We love to see local people becoming actively involved with their local community.

Some people may be put off by the term "councillor," but our definition of a councillor would be an "elected community leader." Councillors can make a real difference to the local area, it can be hard work, but is extremely rewarding.

Job Profile: Councillor

Accountable to: Everyone in your local ward/division/district

Responsibilities

  • To represent local people in local government
  • Voice voters views and concerns to the local council.
  • Attends council meetings
  • Some councillors may decide to head/chair council committees, but this is optional
  • Performs 'casework' for electorates. Casework involves solving individual and community problems by liaising with external organisations
  • Will respond to voters correspondence efficiently
  • Establishes a public profile and attends public events such as fetes
  • Meet with members of the local community regularly. Many councillors hold 'surgeries', where electorates can go and speak directly to their local representative

Most importantly, a councillor is the elected representative of an area, this means that they effectively work for the local community.

Essential Skills

  • The ability to listen and empathise with local people
  • Committed to representing voters views and concerns
  • Honest and reliable
  • Good negotiating skills; putting forward a persuasive argument
  • Confident with public speaking
  • Able to encourage people from all walks of life to get involved with local government

Hours Per Week: Variable

There are no specified hours for councillors, apart from attending council meetings. Councillors can work between 5-30 hours per week. Councillors have the rare opportunity to make positive changes in their community and we recommend that you spend as many hours as it takes for you to fulfil your duties. Also, workloads can vary throughout the year.

As you can see from the job profile, being a local councillor is an interesting and varied job. You don't have to be from a certain educational background or have any work experience. The best councillors are those who care about the local community and are committed to their job.

The different 'types' of Councillors

In Hertfordshire there are 3 'levels' of local government; Town/Parish, District and County. Each level of Council have their own duties and area.

Parish/Town Councils look after a small area, such as a town. Parish/Town councils duties vary, but Hertford Town Council manages local parks, cemeteries, allotments, local amenities and the tourist centre. They are also responsible for local planning and local events, such as 'Rock in the Castle'. More information can be found regarding Hertford Town Council here.

There are 48 parish/town councils in East Herts. You can find the contact details and more information regarding your local town/parish council here.

District Councils are responsible for a section of a county and look after more general services in the area. East Herts Council are the local district council. Their duties include managing waste collection, providing recycling services, housing and looking after leisure facilities and local footpaths. The electoral areas for district councils are separated into 'wards'. To find out more about East Herts Council, please click here.

County Councils are responsible for the main public services in a whole county. Herts County Council duties include education, libraries, social services and trading standards. The electoral areas for county councils are separated into 'divisions'. If you would like to know more about Herts County Council, please click here.

The popular writetothem.com website enables you to contact your local representatives at town/district/county by entering your postcode.

Each council holds elections every few years, (see the Election Cycle in East Herts for more details). It is possible for a person to become a councillor in all 3 levels of government, but we do not recommend this as it would be extremely difficult for councillors to stay in employment.

After reading the previous information, we hope that you are considering being a councillor. If this is the case, you should think about which level of council you wish to be involved with. A town councillor's role is very different to a county councillor. Also as a general guide, a county and district councillor will need to work longer hours than a parish/town councillor.

Town/Parish councils are great for individuals who want to be involved with their local community. District and County councils are perfect for people who wish to make a difference to public services and wider issues.

What will I get out of being a Councillor?

  • The chance to become a community leader and create change in your local area
  • Meet a wide range of people.
  • Be able to give something back to the community
  • Become actively involved with politics
  • Being a Councillor shows a wide range of skills that would be very desirable for potential employers (e.g. leadership, public speaking)
  • Make a positive difference to your local area

Expenses and Allowances

Everyone should be able to become a councillor and your financial circumstances shouldn't prevent you from taking up public office. Councillors are not expected to fund their position themselves. All councillors are entitled to claim expenses. County and District councillors also receive a subsidence allowance, so they are not left out of pocket, from time they take off work.

The allowance is provided to enable councillors to carry out their duties. The allowance shouldn't be misused to supplement wage, but rather to stop councillors losing money from performing a public service.

East Herts Council provides a basic allowance for district councillors of around £5000.

Herts County Council provides a basic allowance for local councillors of £9588.

Taking time off work

Many councillors have full/part-time jobs. Being a councillor will not prevent you from     pursuing a career. By law an employer has to give you time off work, so that you are able to carry out public duties, such as attending meetings. To find out more, please look at part 6, section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

How do I get elected?

The electoral process may be complicated and daunting for first time candidates. If you decide to run as an Independent Councillor under East Herts People, we will be able to offer you guidance and support. Whilst becoming an electoral candidate can be a lot of hard work, election campaigns are exciting and rewarding, giving you the opportunity to meet a wide range of people and become part of your community.

What happens once I am elected? What support will be offered to me?

Each council offers training and support to all councillors. This enables anyone to stand for council. No-one should be put off taking part in local democracy because they think they don't have the right experience or qualifications.

If you are elected as an Independent Councillor for East Herts People, we have a team of researchers who will be able to offer you assistance and advice. As we are an enabling body for Independent Councillors, we will not influence your decisions or require you to vote in a certain way. You will still be able to be a fully Independent Councillor, but have the additional support of East Herts People

I want to be a Councillor

Excellent! Now please contact us and we can discuss how East Herts People can help you become an elected community representative.

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