Councillors are people elected to represent their local community in the running of their local council and they have an important role in many of the major decisions that affect people’s lives.
If standing for election, it is important to understand the varied and important work that councillors do. Broadly speaking, these can be broken down into 7 roles:
Councillors are responsible for ensuring the council has a clear direction and accountability and appropriate working arrangements in place to ensure that it achieves what it sets out to do. If elected, you will play an important part in the council’s decision making process.
Each council has their governance arrangements detailed in its Constitutional documents, which will be outlined as part of your induction if you are elected.
Councillors can also be appointed to external local bodies such as local leisure trusts or economic regeneration companies and a wide range of other local partnerships. If nominated to such bodies, you will be appointed either as a representative of the council or sometimes as a trustee or director in your own right.
Developing and reviewing policy
If elected you would be able to contribute to the development and review of the council’s policies through your:
- role in challenging and scrutinising the work of the council
- role as a representative on local community groups
- role on area forums and committees, where they exist
- constituency case work
- membership of a political group, if you were elected on a political platform
- role with other councillors on policy or scrutiny committees
Councillors are the only locally democratically elected community representatives capable of holding public services to account for their performance within local areas and on behalf of local communities. If elected, you would have a key role to play in scrutinising and monitoring how well services are delivered by the council and its partners.
A key role of a councillor is to represent their ward and the people who live in it.
This demands visibility, being a trusted point of contact and an effective advocate for local people.
This involves councillors ensuring that the views of local communities are represented and fed into decisions taken by the council and partners.
Councillors also have a responsibility to communicate council policy and decisions to people in their ward. All councillors are advocates for their communities and support individual constituents to navigate the complex landscape of local public services.
Whilst councillors do spend time in council meetings, much of a councillor’s time is spent within their communities speaking and working with members of the public, community groups and fellow ward members.
The key to all of the roles of the councillor is leadership. Leaders of councils are not just those who hold formal roles such as the Council leader or committee convener. Every councillor is a leader within and of the community that chose to elect them to represent their area and their interests. If elected, being a community leader will involve a number of things, including:
- Acting as an advocate for the best interests of your ward and also the wider council area
- Lobbying for local concerns/ issues that are important to your ward area;
- Influencing partner organisations to work to a common purpose and outcomes
- Resolving potential conflict amongst community organisations
- Supporting communities to develop their own solutions to problems in their area, where appropriate
- Balancing competing demands for resources when making decisions in the best interests of the whole authority area.
Councils are not just service providers – they also play a regulatory role in issues such as planning, licensing, trading standards and environmental health. This involves councillors in quasi-legal roles on special committees appointed directly by the council. These regulatory committees operate within a specific set of legislation and guidance, and councillors can only make decisions that are in accordance with such guidance. Training will be given to all councillors appointed to such committees.
The Political Role
Many councillors choose to stand for election on a party platform while others stand as independent candidates, without party affiliation. If you choose to stand for a political party you will have additional duties in:
- Reporting back to your party
- Engaging with your local party organisation
- Meeting as a political group within the local authority
- Working within a national framework of rules and responsibilities of your political party