BECOMING A PARISH COUNCILLOR

Parish councillors represent the people living in local areas at the closest level to the community.  When decisions are being made they are there to put your views across.

What is a Councillor?

Councillors are elected (or co-opted) to the parish of Ash.  They are generally elected by the public every four years.

What do Councillors do?

Councillors have three main parts to their work and training is provided for all

  1. Decision making
  2. Monitoring
  3. Getting involved locally

Decision Making

At Parish Council meetings, councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented.  As well as attending meetings, councillors should be prepared to get involved in the meetings.

Monitoring

Councillors make sure that their decisions lead to efficient and effective services by keeping an eye on how well things are working.

Getting Involved Locally

As local representatives, councillors have responsibilities Ash residents.  These responsibilities and duties often depend on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available.

This may include:

  • going to meetings of local organisations
    • going to meetings of bodies affecting the wider community
    • taking up issues on behalf of members of the public 

Visiting your council’s monthly meeting is the best way to find out what happens there.  Ash Parish Council meets on the first Monday of every month, except when there is a Bank Holiday and then it is the next available Monday evening. There are occasional other evening meetings. Councillors must be able to attend the monthly meeting.  By law, people are allowed to be present at most council business.

How Much Time Does It Take Up?

Quite often councillors say that their duties occupy them for about three hours a week.  Obviously, there are some councillors who spend more time than this – and some less, but in the main, being a parish councillor is an enjoyable way of contributing to your community and helping to make it a better place to live and work.

Am I Qualified?

Yes – most people are.  However, there are a few rules.

You have to be:

  • a British subject, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union: and
  • on the ‘relevant day’ (i.e. the day on which you are nominated or if there is a poll the day of the election) 18 years of age or over; and
  • additionally:
    on the ‘relevant day’ a local government elector for the council area for which you want to stand; or have during the whole of the 12 months preceding that day occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the council area; or
  • have during that same period had your principal or only place of work in the council area; or during that 12-month period resided in the council area.

In the case of a sitting member of a parish or community council you can also satisfy the criteria to be elected if you have lived in the council area or within 3 miles of it for the whole of the 12 months preceding the ‘relevant day’.

You cannot stand for election if you;

  • are subject of a bankruptcy restriction order or interim order
  • have, within five years before the day of the election, been convicted in the United Kingdom of any offence and have had a sentence of imprisonment (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine
  • you work for the council you want to become a Councillor for (but you can work for other local authorities, including the principal authorities that represent the same area)

Councillors can be automatically disqualified if they do not attend meetings for six consecutive months.  To avoid this councillors need to submit reasons for their non-attendance and their council has to accept and minute the reasons for non-attendance.  If their reasons are not accepted they face automatic disqualification.

How to Become a Councillor

Parish councillors are elected by the public and serve four-year terms. The next Dover District parish council elections will take place in May 2019.

Following elections, councils appoint a chair. There are eleven councillors on the Parish Council of Ash.  They are unpaid, and this is purely voluntary position.

The Election Procedure

Ordinary elections of local councillors take place on the first Thursday in May every four years.  The next election for parish councillors in Ash will be in May 2019.

If you are interested in becoming a councillor, it is advisable to attend a few parish council meetings to make sure the role of a councillor is what you expect and of interest to you.  You will then need to complete a nomination form and be aware of the election process.

Nomination Process

A prospective candidate must deliver or send by post to the Returning Officer a valid nomination paper.  This form is obtained from the Ash Parish Council Clerk.  The candidate’s surname, forenames, residence and description (if required) must be entered and his or her number and prefix letter from the current register of electors.  This number and prefix letter can be obtained from the Electoral Services Department at Dover District Council.

What Next?

The Dover District Council Returning Officer is the person responsible for the conduct and arrangement for community, parish and town council elections.  If you are considering becoming a candidate for election it could be wise to contact the Returning Officer to obtain more detailed information.

Also, for more information about what life is like as councillor contact the Ash Parish Council Clerk.

By-Elections

Occasionally a seat becomes vacant mid-term due to reasons such as resignation or death, or if there are not enough candidates to fill all council seats at election time.  If so the council can hold a by-election.  By election notices must be prepared by the council and advertised for 14 days (not including Saturday, Sunday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Good Friday, a Bank Holiday and a day appointed for public thanksgiving or mourning) in conspicuous places within the Parish or community.

If within 14 days after public notice has been given, at least ten electors give written notice to the proper officer of the principal authority of a request for an election to fill the vacancy, then a by-election must be held except where the vacancy occurs within six months before the date when the councillor in question would have regularly retired (e.g. four days after the next ordinary election).

Co-option

If no by-election is called by electors of the Parish then the Council may then co-opt members to the council.  The council may co-opt whom it pleases to fill a vacancy, provided the person is qualified to be a councillor (see ‘Am I Qualified’ above).  The person co-opted must receive a majority of the votes of those councillors present and voting at the meeting where the co-option takes place.

If you would like more information, please contact the Clerk at clerk@ashpc.kentparishes.gov.uk