How to become a councillor

Anyone wishing to become a Councillor, and who is a member of a political party, should first consider standing as a representative for their favoured party, which could be any party. This could be one of the three political parties currently represented on the Council, or some other one, for example, Liberal Democrat or Green. Alternatively a person could stand as an independent.

Elections are held every four years with the next election scheduled for May 2018. Political parties tend to select their candidates well before this however, so if you are interested you should put your name forward to the relevant political party as soon you can.

How much time is a Councillor expected to put into the role, and what’s involved?

New Councillors want to, and are expected to, get to know the area they represent and deal with issues residents bring to their attention, often seeking the help of Council officers who are the paid employees who deliver the Council's services.

Councillors are important community leaders and there are many ways they can take up issues or pursue matters they and their residents feel are important.

One thing they may wish to do once elected is hold periodic Ward 'surgeries' where local people can come to talk to them; but some choose to make themselves available in other ways. Normally, at the very least, a Councillor will be expected to remain regularly contactable by phone and e-mail.

The people they represent will look to them to help solve their problems, so they may expect a considerable number of letters, e-mails and phone calls - the latter sometimes at antisocial hours. In serving the community, Councillors are there to help residents with whatever problems they may have: these range from benefit and housing problems to planning, rubbish, parking, street cleaning, and so on - the mix of topics varies greatly with each Ward.

Most new Councillors will serve on one of the Council's overview and scrutiny committees, which have the important job of examining local services to making sure they are effective and meet local needs. These various committees cover all the functions of the Council - planning, education, housing, adult care, children’s care, waste management, street cleaning, libraries and much more.

In addition all Councillors attend full Council meetings, when all Councillors come together to discuss major strategies and policies in the Council Chamber.

If, after serving on the Council some time, a Councillor becomes a Committee Chairman or Cabinet Member, then the time they have to put in can increase considerably as they become responsible for major decisions, budgets or service areas.
At the very least a new Councillor will have two or three Council or committee meetings a month to attend, though for some this number could be considerably greater: these are usually held at 6.30pm at Kensington Town Hall, however some committees do meet during the day. These meetings generally last two or three hours.

There will also be other local meetings a new Councillor will need to attend, such as school governing bodies or voluntary groups. For most meetings a Councillor will have agenda papers to read in the week running up to the meeting.

Being a Councillor is not a full-time role, but anyone thinking about standing for election should be clear from the start about the time commitment they will have to make and think about the impact this may have on their employment and on their family and personal relationships.

How much is a Councillor paid?

There is no salary for being a Councillor. However all Councillors are paid a basic allowance of around £10,000 a year to meet travel and other costs and to reflect the time it takes to be a Councillor.

If a Councillor becomes a Cabinet Member or Committee Chairman they will also receive an additional special responsibility allowance to reflect the extra work and responsibility they have taken on.

What training and support can a Councillor expect?

Every Councillor is offered the opportunity to discuss their training and support needs with officers. All Councillors are given access to the training they need to help them become fully effective in their role.

In addition the Council contributes to home IT costs and provides stationery, photocopying and officer support via a Councillors' Secretary. At the Town Hall there is a well-equipped Members' Room and other rooms available for informal meetings.

Does a Councillor get time off work?

If a Councillor works, his/her employer must by law allow them to take a reasonable amount of time off, during working hours, to perform their Councillor duties.

The amount of time off will depend on the individual's responsibilities and the effect that absences from work might have on the employer's business. Someone thinking of becoming a Councillor should discuss these issues first with their employer.

For more information about becoming a councillor, see Become a Councillor at www.gov.uk.