What is involved in being a councillor?
Being a councillor is a rewarding experience and many councillors will tell you that they have obtained new skills and experiences whilst working with their communities.
Here are some things to think about before deciding to stand for election.
What’s the time commitment?
Think about how you would balance the responsibilities of being a councillor alongside family, friends and employment.
Talk to the people around you before you stand: their support will be really important. Chase Independents councillors come from a wide variety of backgrounds and commitments, have a chat with them about what is involved
If you also work, talk to your employer. You are entitled to time off for being a councillor and many employers see the benefit of an employee gaining such great experience outside the workplace.
If you have caring responsibilities, think about how to manage those. Many people looking after children or dependent adults make excellent local councillors as they have direct personal knowledge of the services that affect people just like them.
Be Prepared Top Tip: Make a list of all the things you currently do and think about how you could manage your activities and commitments. Talk to people with experience of being a councillor and who have similar time commitments to you.
Can I afford to do it?
District and County councillors receive an ‘allowance’ for their duties which is taxable. You can find out more about the allowances scheme run by each council on their web site and think about your own financial situation.
Being a councillor is a job and the allowance is to ensure that if elected you are not left out of pocket. If you are on benefits these allowances can affect your entitlement, so get advice before agreeing to stand.
There is also a childcare and dependents’ carers’ allowance for attendance at meetings payable on production of receipts, up to an agreed maximum cost per hour.
The council also provides a Special Responsibility allowance to those who undertake additional duties such as the Leader of the Council, portfolio holders, scrutiny chairs and opposition leaders.
Chase Independents Councillors agree to give part of their allowances to to help get more Councillors elected.
What training do I need?
You don’t have to be highly educated or have a profession. Skills gained through work, education, bringing up a family, caring for a sick or disabled relative, volunteering or being active in faith or community groups are really valuable.
In addition, Chase Independents offer training for people thinking of standing for election, as well as for candidates, and all councils provide training for both new and experienced councillors. We also take advantage of the wide range of opportunities through the Local Government Association.
Although you don’t need any particular training to stand for election, think about what skills and attributes you do have and how they might help.
For instance, councillors are expected to be available to enable constituents to come to them with problems. This means that councillors need to have good listening skills, the ability to represent someone, to keep confidences, and to resolve conflict.
How can I find out more?
There is more information below in the section called ‘Once you’re elected’, as well as online at the Chase Independents website. The Local Government Association has also produced a workbook to help you to go through some of the things you need to consider.
Be Prepared Top Tip: Make a list of the skills and experience you think you have. Ask friends and relatives what they think. Be honest, but don’t underplay yourself – most people have a much wider range of skills than they think. Consider how these skills would make you a great councillor.
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