I AM Politics – Become a Councillor
Become a councillor
How to become a councillor and what your responsibilities will be
Anyone can become a councillor if they represent themselves as an independent candidate. You can also become a councillor if you’re a member of a political party.
The majority of councillors represent a political party and they’re always looking for new candidates. If you want to know more then you should contact the party directly:
- Liberal Democrat Members’ Services Office: 0117 922 2757
- Labour Members’ Services Office: 0117 922 3827
- Conservative Members’ Services Office: 0117 922 2746
- Green Party Members’ Services Office: 0117 352 6155
There’s a lot more information on how to become a councillor on the Be A Councillor website.
What would be expected of you
Representing the people
As a councillor you’ll be involved with individuals and groups with a range of problems and priorities.
You’ll need to speak up for people in your area, whether they voted for you or not. You won’t always be able to agree with them because you have to consider the wider needs of the community as well as individual concerns.
You’ll have a say in political decisions with your colleagues and other councillors. You’ll need to be able to answer for your actions and those of any group you’re a member of.
If you’re an opposition member, the role of checking and questioning the decisions of the controlling group will fall to you.
Working with the community
You’ll be part of one of the 14 Neighbourhood Partnerships across the city. The neighbourhood partnerships consist of local ward councillors as well as residents and representatives of voluntary organisations, equality forum representatives, youth representatives and others.
You’ll need to build links with the police, the health service, Jobcentre Plus, and local groups. Good relations with these groups and organisations will also make it easier for you to speak to them on behalf of your constituents.
Representing the council
You may be called on to represent the council on organisations such as charities, trusts or voluntary groups and you’ll have to put forward the views of the council.
Finding the time
It’s possible to maintain a balance between the life of a councillor and the responsibilities of everyday life.
Organise your life
Allow yourself time to do your council work. You could start setting aside one evening a week or part of each weekend for casework.
Do your homework
Effective councillors are those who know what they’re talking about, no matter what the subject or size of the issue is. If you don’t know the answer, admit to it, but always promise to find out and report back.
Don’t try to do everything
Concentrate on those aspects of the council’s work which interest you or which you enjoy. Don’t try to read every report and deal with every piece of mail you receive. After a while you’ll learn how to scan reports and find the important paragraphs.
Make time for ‘real life’
Time with your family and friends is invaluable. Some councillors make a rule about not doing any council work on a Sunday, or booking out at least a day a month which is their own.
Find out what support is available
Being a successful councillor depends on you making use of the support services that are available. Find out what’s available by talking to your group office that’ll be able to support and guide you with casework and other matters.
Listen and watch
Listen to experts and people who’ve been around for a while. Keep a note of all the interesting things that you’re told (even if it’s just a mental note). Practise listening even when you’re not interested and try to recount what you’ve been told.
Think in advance of the kinds of people, skills and contacts you’ll need and set out to find them. It probably sounds a bit ruthless but it helps to develop relationships with others that are both respectful and productive.
Payment and allowances
The same basic allowance of £11,530 a year is paid to each councillor.
The allowance is set to reimburse councillors for time spent at meetings with outside bodies and informal briefings, and to carry out duties that the public would expect from a councillor. The allowance also covers the cost of travel within the city as well as incidental costs, such as the use of their homes.