WHO CAN BECOME A PARISH OR TOWN COUNCILLOR AND WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE? - It is a sad fact that, unless you take a particular interest in the work of your local Council, the chances are that you will know very little about the work of a councillor - other than what you may have heard at election times, and social events. This page is designed to help you to understand the nature of the work of a councillor on your local parish or town council and to answer some of your questions.

- To become a parish or town councillor, a person is qualified if: he or she is a British subject, is a citizen of the Irish Republic or other Euro national and on the day on which he or she is nominated as a candidate, is over 18 and is an elector; And during the whole of the twelve months preceding his or her nomination day, or the day of election, resided or had his principal place of work in the parish or town, or within three miles of it.
DISQUALIFICATIONS - A person will be disqualified from holding office as a parish or town councillor if: they hold a paid office or other place of profit in the gift of the Council. they have been declared bankrupt in the past five years and have not repaid their debts. they have been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to not less than three months imprisonment (including any suspended sentence) within the past five years.

Persons can also be disqualified from holding office, by order of the court, if they have incurred illegal expenditure (when acting as a councillor) of over £2,000 and if they have been found guilty of corrupt or illegal practices under the Representation of the Peoples Act 1983.

WHAT DOES BECOMING A COUNCILLOR INVOLVE? - A councillor is a member of the Council and is normally elected for a term of four years. For those elected at a by-election or by co-option during the four year term, their term of office may be anything up to the full four years. The majority of serving councillors on parish and town councils are a broad mix of men and women of all ages. Whilst they may have differing political views these do not normally extend into their parish or town council work. What parish and town councillors do all have in common is an active interest in their local community and a concern for it. Councillors take collective decisions which form the policy of the Council. The policy of the Council will therefore reflect the views of the majority of the members.
In addition to attending meetings of the full Council, most councillors are also appointed to be members of certain committees of the Council which deal with specific areas of council business. When work of a particularly detailed nature is required, a special sub-committee or working party may be established to handle the matter. The committees of the Council will usually meet in a cycle of meetings and at the end of each cycle the full Council will meet to confirm the recommendations made by the various committees and to take decisions for action.
The council clerk will advise councillors on their work. Whenever necessary clerks can seek advice from DAPTC. Clerks are employed to implement the functions and duties of the Council, as decided by the elected councillors who must act within the law.

HAVE YOU TIME TO BE A COUNCILLOR? - It is possible to spend a lot of time on council work - but most people have jobs, families and hobbies which also place demands on their precious time! Generally speaking, the larger the number of electors, the larger a Council's workload will be. The times of meetings vary, as do the venues, but most Parish and Town Councils normally meet during the evening. Before deciding to become a councillor it is important to find out the pattern of meetings of your Council and their venues to make sure you can accommodate them into your normal domestic and work arrangements. Nevertheless, unless you take on responsibility as a Chairman or Vice-Chairman of a committee your workload as a 'back-bencher' on the Council should not involve more than one or two evenings a month. There are, of course, also outside activities in which the Council may take an interest, and you may additionally be asked to take a share of the duties in representing the Council on these external organisations.

DO I KNOW ENOUGH TO STAND FOR ELECTION? - Never under-estimate your own abilities! Each councillor will have something to offer the Council but you will not be expected to take direct responsibility for running the Council on the first day you are elected. Your main qualifications are to care for the community and to be willing to learn. Knowledge, experience and confidence will soon follow. This also applies to getting used to speaking in public. You will not be expected to make regular 'keynote speeches'; much of your time will be spent in discussion. However, in full Council you will have a relatively larger audience and, if it helps, do not be afraid to make advance notes on what you plan to say. Generally, new councillors are good news! They bring new ideas and fresh enthusiasm, and that has to be good for the Council.

WHAT TRAINING MIGHT I RECEIVE? - DAPTC run several training courses each year for parish and town councillors. Seminars on current issues are also arranged from time to time. You should contact DAPTC for details of forthcoming training events on: 01305 260972 or via e-mail at: daptc@dorsetcc.gov.uk.

HOW MUCH WILL BEING A COUNCILLOR COST ME? - Being a councillor should cost you very little. There is usually cover for subsistence and travel allowances if your duties take you out of the area of responsibility of your Council. Details of these allowances will be determined by the Council, but must be within a maximum laid down by the government.

PARISH AND TOWN COUNCILS -The key responsibilities of parish and town councils are listed on this web site under: "What is the role of Parish and Town Councils and what powers do they have?" In addition, some functions of Borough, District and County Councils may be delegated to them. Parish and town councils are now also playing an increasing role in community development.
BOROUGH AND DISTRICT COUNCILS - The responsibilities of Borough and District Councils include: environmental health, refuse collection, housing, licensing and land charges, swimming baths, parks, (district-wide) local plans, development control, markets, car parks, entertainment and environmental protection.
COUNTY COUNCILS - County Councils' responsibilities include: education, social services, libraries, museums, national parks, highways, refuse disposal, mineral extraction, (county-wide) structure plans, consumer protection, environmental protection and emergency planning.
HOW DO I ACTUALLY APPLY? - You should contact your parish or town council clerk - see list on this web site under: "Contact Us”