Becoming a Parish Councillor
The next elections will be held in May 2023
Do you have the time, energy, skills, enthusiasm and long term commitment to be a Parish Councillor?
You must be at least 18 years old on the day of your nomination – AND –
Be a British citizen, an eligible Commonwealth citizen or European Union citizen – AND –
Meet at least ONE of the following FOUR qualifications:
- A local government elector for the parish in which you wish to stand from the day of your nomination
- You are an owner or tenant of land or premises in the parish for 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election
- Your main or only place of work during these 12 months prior to the day of your nomination and the day of election has been in the parish
- You have lived in the parish or within three miles of it during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election.
What is a parish council?
There are around 10,000 parish and town councils representing around 16 million people across England. They form the most local level of government and cover many rural and urban areas.
What services can it provide?
A parish or town council has an overall responsibility for the well-being of its local community. Its work falls into three main categories:
- representing the local community
- delivering services to meet local needs
- striving to improve quality of life in the parish
A Parish Council might provide and/or maintain some of the following services:
It can also work with the District Council and County Council to provide other services, for example:
How does it make decisions?
The Parish Council is made up of a number of councillors who meet regularly to make decisions on the work and direction of the council. The Council is a corporate body with a legal existence of its own quite separate to that of its members. Its decisions are the responsibility of the whole body.
Attending a council meeting is the best way to find out what the Council does. Members of the public are welcome to attend all meetings of the Council and may address the Council about any matter of concern during the first ten minutes of the meeting.
Where does the council get its money from?
Each year a sum of money called the ‘precept’ is collected through your council tax. This money is used by the parish council to improve facilities, provide services for local people and to cover the costs of running the Council. Parish councils can also apply for grants and loans.
How are parish councillors appointed?
Most parish elections are held on a four yearly cycle, with elections in 2023, 2027 and so on. In a warded parish, an election is held in each ward, the same way elections are held in district wards and in county electoral divisions.
Botesdale Parish Council is a warded parish. Nine councillors represent the parish. They are elected by people who live in the area providing a contested election is held e.g. if nine people seek election, there will be an “uncontested” election, which means that there will be no poll and the candidates will be automatically “elected”. If more people seek election than seats available there will be a “contested” election and a poll will take place.
Ideally, parish councils hope to have more candidates than available seats. In reality many parish councils have insufficient candidates standing at election. This means that the remaining seats have to be filled by “co-option”, or in other words the Council can choose to appoint a new member of the council any time one is needed rather than wait for an election.
What do parish councillors do?
Councillors have three main areas of work:
- Decision-making: through attending meetings and committees with other elected members, councillors decide which activities to support, where money should be spent, what services should be delivered and what policies should be implemented;
- 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 towards their parishioners and local organisations. This often depends on what the councillor wants to achieve and how much time is available.
The day-to-day work of a councillor may include:
- going to meetings of local organisations
- going to meetings of bodies that affect the wider community, such as the police, the Highways Authority, schools and colleges
- bringing parishioners concerns to the attention of the council
You can read a bit more about the role here:
The Nolan Principles – The Seven Principles of Public Life
Could I be a parish councillor?
As a councillor you can become a voice for your community and affect real change. It helps if you’re a “people person” who enjoys talking to other residents but, more importantly, you need to have the concerns and best interests of the parish as a whole at heart. Councillors are community leaders and should represent the aspirations of the public that they serve.
Parish Councils are the most local part of our democratic system and are closest to the public. Why don’t you join your local parish council and see what difference you can make to your local community?
How much time does it take up & when?
It depends on you but at a minimum it would take the time to read meeting documents and attend the monthly meetings. Obviously there are some councillors who spend more time than this, 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 in which to live and work. Council meetings are always held in the evenings so are compatible with work.
Talking and listening to your fellow parishioners can be done at any time but you must be able to spend a couple of hours once a month on a Monday evening attending the Council meeting. Please refer to our schedule of meetings.
What qualifications do I need?
You have to be:
- a British citizen, or a citizen of the Commonwealth or the European Union, and
- 18 years or older on the day you become nominated for election, and
- live or work in or near the parish.
You cannot stand for election if you:
- are the 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 prison sentence (whether suspended or not) for a period of over three months without the option of a fine.