The local council elections will be held on Thursday May 4th this year.
We recently posted an article about being a poll clerk, what that involves and how much you can earn. It got us thinking about what is involved in being a local councillor. Who can stand, how much time is involved, what are the responsibilities and how much do you get paid?
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, for those who are unsure, a local councillor is someone who represents the people who live in their ward to the council. They do this by attending meetings, deciding what services the council should provide and work out and review council policies. They are different from MPs who deal with things that affect the whole country. A councillor deals with local matters for local people.
Read on to find out if you could be a local councillor…
Let’s start with the basics. Local councillors do not get a salary. However, they do get financial compensation in the form of an allowance which covers things like the time they have spent on council duties, telephone and travel expenses.
According to the Local Government Association (LGA), on average local councillors in England can get anything from £3,000 to £16,000 depending on their council. The average works out at about £7,000 per year.
The amount they can get also depends on their responsibilities and what their role is. As well as a basic allowance, councillors with specific roles such as cabinet members or leaders of the council will also receive a Special Responsibility Allowance to reflect their additional workload. This amount depends on the local council.
Many councillors have full time jobs and fit their council work in alongside their everyday lives.
So, it’s clear from this that people don’t stand to be a local councillor to make money. They do it because they want to give back to their community or feel that they have something to contribute. They might be passionate about a specific cause (e.g. the environment) or just want to make a real difference to peoples’ lives.
The basic rules for who can stand to be a local councillor include:
- being aged 18 or over
- being on the electoral register of the local authority they wish to stand for
- have lived or worked in the area for the past 12 months
You don’t have to be a member of political party to stand for local elections, some councillors sit as independents.
In terms of skills, there are no qualifications needed but it helps if you have good communication skills; are flexible and open-minded; and have a good grasp of how our political system works.
There is training available and although it’s often described as a steep learning curve, you would quickly gain experience and get more confident with time.
Councils are often looking to diversity their staff and encourage applications from people from different ethnic or socio-economic backgrounds.
According to a 2022 census of local authority councillors, the average amount of time spent on council duties is 22 hours per week. Some spend less (10 hours or fewer), others a lot more (over 35 hours a week).
During their working hours, councillors are expected to attend council meetings and to spend time preparing for these in advance. These meetings usually involve making and scrutinising decisions, reviewing council policy and other regulatory or quasi-judicial obligations.
Other duties might involve holding drop in sessions for local residents, getting out into the community to meet the people you represent and spending time sharing what you do on social media (eg Facebook).