How to become a councillor

Guidance on becoming a councillor and who can and cannot stand for election.

Councillors work closely with communities to improve the lives of residents.

People become councillors for all manner of reasons. But most want to:

  • make a difference to their local community and be involved in its future shape
  • ensure that their area gets the service it deserves
  • represent the views of local people and ensure they count

No specific qualifications are needed to become a councillor - life experience is the best thing to bring to the role. It is vital that members represent all sections of the community - we want to attract people from a broad range of backgrounds to stand as candidates.

You can either stand as an independent, or as a representative of a political party. If you want to represent a party, you will first need to join one and ask them to select you as their candidate for your area.

Legal requirements to be a councillor

  • 18 or over
  • British or a citizen of the Commonwealth. You may also be eligible as a citizen of the European Union, however the criteria has changed now that the UK has left the European Union. Check on the government website for advice about EU citizens’ candidacy rights in local elections.
  • and
    • either be registered to vote on the current register with the local council
    • or have either worked or lived in the council's area for one year
    • been an owner or tenant of any land or premises in the council's area for one year
    • for parish/town councils, there is another criteria you can qualify under, which is to have lived in the parish or within 4.8km of it for the last 12 months

You cannot stand if you:

  • work for your local council
  • hold a politically restricted post for another authority
  • are subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order
  • have served a prison sentence  - including suspended sentences - of three months or more within five years prior to the election
  • have been disqualified under any legislation relating to corrupt or illegal practices

Becoming a parish or town councillor

By becoming a parish councillor you become someone your community will look to for help, guidance and support - a community leader with the power to influence decisions for the benefit of the people you serve.

A parish council is a local authority that makes decisions on behalf of the people in the parish. A town council is a parish council that covers a town but has elected to call itself a town council.

What is expected of a parish or town councillor

You are expected to:

  • represent the views of residents within your parish
  • have responsibility for running local services, such as open spaces, play areas, village halls and more, as part of the council
  • decide on how much to raise through council tax in order to deliver your council's services
  • influence and shape the long-term development policy for the parish, and, as part of the planning process, comment on planning applications in the parish
  • improve the quality of life and the environment in your local area
  • work to identify issues which are important to the lives of the residents you represent
  • work to bring about improvements through local projects
  • lobby other service providers and work in partnership with other parishes and agencies

Councils meet regularly. Members of the public are also invited to attend these meetings - the length of meetings depend on what is on the agenda.

In addition to the regular meetings, councillors may be required to attend ad hoc meetings - for example with architects or agents to discuss planning applications that the council may comment on.

How long a parish councillor serves

Once elected, parish councillors sit on the council for four years. If they then want to stay in the post, they can stand for re-election. This does not mean that you have to stay for four years. If you find it is not for you, or you can no longer meet the commitment, you can resign from the position.

Further information

The legislation relating to elections is extensive. Candidates are advised to familiarise themselves with the provisions.

For full details of the electoral process, including the nomination procedure, and more guidance on standing as a candidate, visit the Electoral Commission website.