Posts Tagged ‘How do I become a Councillor’

Election Expenses

July 3, 2018 1 comment

As a candidate, it’s really important that you understand there are rules governing elections that you MUST follow.

If you don’t follow the rules, you could yourself being disqualified as a candidate before you even get started on your formal campaign. If elected, you could find yourself losing your seat. Worse still, you could even find yourself being charged with a criminal offence.

Some of the most important rules you need to focus on as early as you can, are those concerning your election expenses.

The basic rules:

All candidates are entitled to spend the same amount on their election campaign.

You can spend less than the allocated spend for your election if you wish. But you cannot spend more, as this would give you an unfair advantage in a democratic process.

You (or your election agent) MUST submit a signed declaration of your election expenditure after the election has taken place. The information you provide must be accurate to the best of your knowledge and understanding.

As an Independent, whatever you spend on an election campaign must be provided by you or by your supporters.

There is currently no public funding available for election campaigns in the UK of any kind.

If you have no formal organisation supporting you, it is essential that you keep a record of where any money or goods/services in kind you have received has come from, along with the financial value of what was received.

How much you can spend:

The key information you will need about how much you can spend on your election campaign should be contained within the candidate pack you will receive from the Democratic or Electoral Services Department. However, the Democratic or Electoral Services Department will answer questions for you concerning election finances when information is available.

If you are not provided with the figure for your specific maximum election spend by the Democratic Services Department, you will need two figures to calculate what you can spend in total on your election campaign.

They are:

  • The total number of voters in the Ward or Division where you are going to be a candidate. [Electorate]
  • The allowance or allocation per voter for the Ward or Division where you are going to be a candidate. [Allocation]

The total number of voters will be available from the Electoral Roll and can be checked with the Democratic Services Department.

The Allocation figure – per voter, should be in your candidate pack.

The calculation for your maximum election spend can be made as follows:


Electorate  x  Allocation  =  Maximum Election Spend


For example, in a Ward with an Electorate or total of 2149 people registered to vote, where the spend or Allocation per voter is 39p (£0.39), the Maximum Election Spend would be £838.11 (Eight Hundred and Thirty Eight Pounds and Eleven Pence)

The calculation would be as follows:


2149  x  0.39  =  838.11


The Allocation per voter will probably sound small when you first see it and will almost certainly be in a multiple of Pence. But when you calculate your budget in this way, it will begin to make a lot more sense.

What you can spend your budget on:

This is where you need to be really careful. Anything you spend on your campaign – either directly OR indirectly, is likely to be considered as an election expense.

This means that if you have 5 volunteers helping you during the campaign and after canvassing one day you all go to the pub and you buy them lunch, the value of the bill you pay might be considered as an election expense.

What you should spend your budget on will be things like:

  • Printing
  • Paper
  • Printer Cartridges
  • Design & Artistic Work (If you cannot do it yourself or find a volunteer to assist)
  • Phone calls
  • Rosettes
  • Stickers
  • Loud hailer or megaphone hire

You will need to be frugal and buy only what you need. Anything purchased specifically for the election must be accounted for – even if you do not use it or need it. Make sure you buy the minimum number of extra items possible to allow for mistakes, damage and wastage and no more.

You do not have to account for the time of volunteers, no matter what they do for you, as long as they have not been paid by you, or by someone else on behalf of you – even if that payment was offered by a third party as a gift.

Ideally, your expenditure should be for goods and services ONLY. Otherwise, things will get messy and probably expensive very quickly. Your budget won’t go that far!


  • You only have to stick to the rules on Election Expenses during the formal Election Period.
  • Whatever work you have done and whatever you have spent and used BEFORE the Election is formally called will not count against your Election Expenses.
  • This is why giving yourself as much time as possible to campaign and develop your presence in the community BEFORE an election is potentially so beneficial.
  • You can begin your campaign at any time!


If you are unsure of anything at any stage, ALWAYS give the Democratic or Electoral Services Department a call and preferably obtain the response you need by e-mail.



Canvassing before or during an Election Campaign

July 3, 2018 2 comments

Probably one of the things that anyone new to politics will fear most of all is canvassing – or going from door to door, speaking to residents and finding out what they think.

Believe it or not, once you have started to gain some experience, canvassing can be a lot of fun. It gives you a genuine opportunity to speak one-to-one with the people you are asking to vote for you, and also to find out why other people might be seeing you in a different way and possibly getting you wrong.

As a rule, you personally and if that’s not possible, a reliable member of any supporting team that you have, should knock on every door in the Ward or Division where you hope to get elected during the Formal Election Campaign at least once.

If at all possible, you should visit doorsteps more. When I was first elected, my running mate and I had knocked on every door twice and in some cases three or four times right up to 9pm on the day of the election itself.

You don’t have to wait until its actually election time before you canvass.

If you want to be taken seriously by voters of all kinds, you would do well to visit everyone, every few months as an absolute minimum, before you are elected, and once you are elected too.

Suggestions for canvassing during an election campaign:

  • Make a plan for covering certain areas and giving yourself enough time to cover a set part of it every evening or Saturday during the election campaign.
  • Knock on every door and wait long enough for someone to answer.
  • When you do get an answer, always try to smile and be polite.
  • Introduce yourself and tell them what you are doing briefly. (You should devise and remember a sentence that says something like ‘Hello, I’m Adam Tugwell and I’m running for Tewkesbury Borough Council as an Independent Candidate in the Elections on 4th May, when I very much hope to be elected to represent you’.
  • Ask them if they are planning to vote and who they are planning to support.
  • At this point, you should know if pursuing a conversation where you can discuss your manifesto is a good idea. Basically, if they tell you they are voting for another candidate in a very clear way, wish them a nice day and be on your way!
  • If they are open to talking, don’t immediately see a green light to grandstand your ideas.
  • Ask them how they feel about the area and what they would like to see being done.
  • DON’T criticise or talk negatively about the other candidates – no matter how you feel about them. You are running your own race!
  • DON’T make promises you cannot keep.
  • Do run through your commitments, but keep them brief and to perhaps no more than 3 to 5 ‘bullet points’.
  • Be prepared to talk through any or all of your commitments.
  • NEVER lie if you feel cornered by a question or comment in any way. Be honest and say you will research a topic if you have found yourself challenged by what someone has said – it’s a great way to open up communication if you offer to go back or contact them by e-mail or by phone – and they will feel really valued if you do.
  • Make sure that they have a copy of your literature if you have already delivered some, and your contact details for if they wish to get in touch.
  • When you have left the property, make a note about how many votes you believe you can expect from that household.
  • If possible, use a copy of the Electoral Roll to do this.
  • The Electoral Roll will provide names of the people in each house, but it is safest not to use the names to address people when they answer the door, just in case it isn’t them! Names appear on the Electoral Roll which may not be the names people use in their day-to-day lives. You will avoid feeling red-faced or silly, if you happen to stumble upon someone like this by greeting everyone in the same way.

REMEMBER: You must not refer to yourself as being a ‘candidate’ for any election in any way, written, spoken or otherwise, unless and until you have been formally recognised as being a candidate for that specific Election by the Democratic Services Department at the Council which is managing the Election you plan to run in.

Suggestions at other times:

  • Make a plan for covering a certain area, giving yourself enough time to complete it on a Saturday morning.
  • A week or perhaps two weeks before, visit each of the houses and deliver a small leaflet outlining the issues you are working on and making clear that you would like to know what residents think about these, or anything else which might be of concern to them.
  • On the leaflet, tell them when you will be returning, and ask them to display the leaflet where it can be seen on the day you are going to return. That way you will only knock on doors where people want to talk – which wont by any means be all. But you will also save yourself a lot of time too. (People will remember that you have been to their house and have given them the opportunity to speak to you, even if they don’t take up the offer)
  • When you call at a house, like when you are canvassing at election time above, be polite, smile and introduce yourself, making reference to your note. (Which will hopefully be easy for you to point at)
  • Ask them what they would like to talk about, let them speak and make sure you listen!
  • Be open about your thoughts about what you can do.
  • Don’t make promises you cannot keep.
  • Always be prepared to signpost someone who can help them if you genuinely know that you cannot.

Once you have learned a routine and the best way to interact on the doorstep, the experience will be incredibly useful.

One thing you should never do is get involved in an argument on somebody’s doorstep, especially over your policies. It is important to be aware that you don’t always know who you are talking to on a doorstep, and if they support another candidate, they may consider it an investment in supporting the other candidate by wasting your time. The logic being that you will have less time to spend with people who might support you, if you are on their doorstep fruitlessly trying to convince them to change their mind!

By Elections

A normal election or civic cycle for a local authority is a term of 4 years. At the end of each cycle or term, often all, but sometimes a proportion of a council’s total number of seats will be automatically vacated and put back up for election.

Where authorities run more than one cycle, each respective term will last for 4 years. This means that the overall balance of power could effectively be changed each and every time that one of the cycles ends and the seats are put back up for a vote.

As a councillor elected at the beginning of an election cycle, your term before having to seek re-election or step down would normally be 4 years.

When an elected member or councillor decides to step down, leave or resign from their position or seat part way through the cycle, or is unable to continue for some other reason, a by election will be called just for that specific seat.

By elections can happen at any time throughout the election cycle.

The process is very much the same as a full council election in terms of the number of days between the election being called and run, and when nominations have to be in and all other administrative requirements have to be fulfilled.

However, a by election can and often is only run for a single Ward or Division, or for one of the seats within it if it has multiple seats.

It will be run to coincide with other elections if one is scheduled for a similar time, and the local Monitoring Officer does have some discretion over the dates of by elections, whereas scheduled local elections are normally held on the first Thursday in May.

With this level of flexibility, it might be the case that you know a by election is coming for a certain Ward or Division several months before. Alternatively, you could have very little notice at all.

Notices of By Elections are posted in the same way as normal Local Authority Elections, so you will leave yourself very little time to develop a campaign if you wait for the news to reach you in this way.

Local Media and the Council Minutes will be the most reliable sources of news for you to become aware of when a by election is due. But hearing by word of mouth from people involved with the council itself will always help you a lot more when information like this first becomes available.

Multiple Seat Wards & Divisions

Surprising as it may sound, it is sometimes the case that more than one, and perhaps as many as 6 or even more councillors will represent the same electoral area for the same authority in a multiple seat Ward or Division.

Having a multiple number of seats for the very same election can make life interesting for the people who count the votes after Election Day. But it is also one of the ways that serious attempts are made to ensure that there is a balanced number of residents being represented by councillors within different authorities.

You will normally find multiple seat areas is where there are a lot more people living in a geographically small area, which itself cannot be divided into smaller areas for the purpose of an election.

If you are considering running within a multiple seat Ward or Division, don’t be put off by the idea that there is more than one seat and that you are going to run alone.

There are no rules saying that any political party or group has to have a candidate for every seat.

It might actually be of benefit to you, as voters may feel they get the opportunity to support the party or candidate to whom they feel their political allegiances lie, but can also support a local independent at the same time.

Think of it like this, if you have enough people do that with one political party as others do with another, you might get twice the number of votes or either candidate!

Just remember that of you are running alone in an election like this and are out canvassing, it is always a good idea to make people aware that they have the opportunity to vote more than once at the same time, and that they can vote for you and a party candidate too.

Get to know your local Democratic or Electoral Services Department

July 2, 2018 4 comments

We all love to hate authorities (until we are part of them that is!).

But whatever the Council you hope to be elected to represent your Ward or Division on, it is essential that you get to know the role of the Democratic Services or Electoral Services Department at your local District Level Authority, which takes responsibility for managing ALL Elections in your area.

Your local District Level Authority or Council, will usually but not always be known as a Borough, District or City Council, unless it is a Unitary Authority, in which case it could be a County or perhaps a Metropolitan Borough Council or something similar.

This will be the same authority which collects the Council Tax for residents in the area where you are planning to become a Candidate.

All the information you need about who to contact, the name of the Monitoring Officer (which is very important if you should experience a problem during your official campaign) and the timetables you will need to keep too will be available on this Council’s website.

The Council’s Website will almost certainly also provide the address where you will need to attend to submit your candidate papers, provide information on how and when you can obtain them, and advise upon how you make an appointment to do so (All of your completed forms will need to be checked to make sure they are ‘valid’).

It is very easy to think of the Council as being in some way against you. But the officers you will meet and interact with as a Candidate may well be the same as the ones you will have lots of dealings with if you successfully become a member. As such, it is in your mutual interests to have a positive and professional relationship.

Whenever the next Election for your Parish, Town, Borough, District, City, Unitary or above, if you are going to run, you must keep up to date with all the information that your local Democratic Services Department makes available.

Which Local Authority should I run for?

If you’ve decided that you want to be a Councillor, but are not sure of where you could achieve most, help others in the way you would like, or potentially achieve the biggest impact, it would be worth considering the roles and responsibilities of the different Tiers of Government, and what work Parish & Town Councils, Borough & District Councils and County Councils do.

Many people think of all Councils being the same thing. In some cases, where there are Unitary Authorities they basically are. Otherwise, if you want to influence things in a particular way it is important to know where their responsibilities lie.

If you are already an activist, your decision may be much easier. For instance, if you feel your community needs far more dog and litter bins, you are most likely to influence this by becoming a member of your local Parish or Town Council – if one exists in your area. If you are fed up with building on the green belt or on flood plains, being elected to your local Borough or District Council – where Planning Decisions are made, will be your best step. If tackling potholes is your thing, it will be your County Council.

Unitary Authorities

November 8, 2017 2 comments

A major reconstruction of local authority boundaries created a number of Unitary Authorities in 2009. Government cuts and a drive to share services between authorities may lead to the creation of more in the future

In some areas, the roles and responsibilities of Parish & Town and/or Borough & District and County Councils have been amalgamated and made the responsibility of one local authority for that area. The areas they cover typically correspond with a Borough/District Boundary or a County Boundary, but could mirror the area covered by a multiple of former Borough/District Councils.

Competition for a seat on a Unitary Authority is likely to be higher than fighting for a seat on a Borough/District Council or a County Council Division – especially if ‘unitary status’ has been recently obtained and the way that Councilors are elected to the Authority has been changed.

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County Councils

November 8, 2017 2 comments

ClassroomCounty Councils make up the highest tier of local government and provide a range of public services which are typically more strategically focused, as opposed to the more ‘day-to-day’ nature of the work of District Level Authorities. Their area of control usually corresponds with the geographical boundaries of Counties.

Councillors are elected to County Council Seats as Representatives of ‘Divisions’. Divisions typically cover the same area as several District Level Authority Wards, which themselves typically cover a multiple of Parish Wards. (where they exist)

The responsibilities of County Councils include:

  • Education (The Local Education Authority)
  • Adult Education
  • School Buildings & Infrastructure
  • Highways (Minor roads and the major roads not under the control of the Highways Agency)
  • Footpaths and Public Rights of Way
  • Waste Disposal Strategy (Rubbish disposal sites, waste incinerators etc)
  • Social Services
  • Public Transport
  • Education Transport
  • Transport Planning
  • Strategic Planning
  • Emergency Planning
  • Setting the Council’s Annual Budget or ‘Precept’ – the amount every household contributes to the running of the Council, which is paid as part of their ‘Council Tax’

Elections are rarely uncontested and most County Councils are under the control of a Political Group, or made up of Members who have been elected as representatives of well known Political Parties.

Once elected, Members usually have the opportunity to join various committees and contribute in different roles with varying levels of responsibility, depending on the structure of the Council.


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Borough or District Councils (District Level Authorities)

November 8, 2017 3 comments

Bin LorryBorough or District Councils provide the administrative hubs of local government. They oversee and manage a wide range of the public services that voters experience on a regular basis and hold key responsibilities for our local environment.

Councillors are elected to Borough or District Council Seats as Representatives of ‘Wards’. Wards typically cover the same area as a multiple of Parish Council Wards (where they exist).

District Level Authorities typically provide Electoral Services for ALL public elections, irrespective of the Tier of Government through their Democratic Services Departments, and it will be this authority that you will need to contact regarding the process and requirements to become a candidate in an election in the location over which the authority presides.

The responsibilities of District Level Authorities include:

  • Planning
  • Building Control
  • Licensing (Sale of Alcohol, Taxi & Private Hire, Scrap Metal Collection, Gambling, Sex Shops, Street Trading)
  • Housing
  • Environmental Health
  • Refuse & Recycling collections
  • Maintaining Parks & Green Spaces
  • Street Cleansing
  • Setting the Council’s Annual Budget or ‘Precept’ – the amount every household contributes to the running of the Council, which is paid as part of their ‘Council Tax’
  • Electoral Services (non-political)
  • Flood Prevention & Emergency Planning
  • The collection and redistribution of Council Tax
  • Community facilities (Sports halls, swimming pools, public toilets, car parks)

District Level Authorities are perceived by many in politics to be where responsibility really begins. Elections are rarely uncontested and most Councils at this level are under the control of a Political Group, or made up of Members who have been elected as representatives of well known Political Parties.

Once elected, Members usually have the opportunity to join various committees and contribute in different roles with varying levels of responsibility, depending on the structure of the Council. Some of these, such as those with Licensing or Planning responsibility are considered apolitical and quasi-judicial in nature.


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Parish & Town Councils

November 8, 2017 3 comments

The Parish Council Meetings from the TV Comedy ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ give a warm and fun portrayal of the responsibilities of government at the most accessible level. But the responsibilities are real, and elected councillors can make a big difference on behalf of their local community

Arguably the most accessible form of Government in the UK today are local Parish & Town Councils. They are also the most diverse, in terms of their size, the regularity of when they meet, their budget, and the assets and activities which they have responsibility for.

Typically Parish & Town Councils only exist within rural or countryside Boroughs or Districts and they often hold responsibility for the area around and including a Village, a definable/outlying area of a Town or a group of very small Villages or Hamlets (Parish), or alternatively an area known as a Town which itself is not big enough demographically (have enough people living there or registered to vote) to qualify as a Borough or District in government terms.

Their responsibilities typically include:

  • Community Assets (Which includes Village Halls, Town Halls, Public Toilets, other community buildings, playing fields, parks, green spaces etc, which have belonged to the Parish/Town historically OR have been ‘adopted’ as a result of development)
  • Litter Bins (Paying for their purchase and installation, choosing the site etc)
  • Dog Bins (Paying for their purchase and installation, choosing the site etc)
  • Benches (Paying for their purchase and installation, choosing the site etc)
  • Bus Shelters (Paying for their purchase and installation, choosing the site etc)
  • Cleaning and maintaining Community Assets
  • Setting the Parish or Town ‘Precept’ – the amount every household contributes to the running of the Council, which is paid as part of their ‘Council Tax’
  • Grants
  • Consideration of Planning Applications as a Respondent
  • Representing the community where appropriate
  • Supporting other community stakeholders and local organisations (where appropriate)
  • Other responsibilities which are specific to the Council

It doesn’t look or sound like a lot of responsibility. But for those who really care about the community in which they live and the shared experience they have with others who live and work there too, becoming a member of a local Parish or Town Council can be very rewarding as it is possible to experience the impact of the work and decisions made first hand.

Parish & Town Councils will always have at least one Officer known as a Clerk, who is responsible for administration and communication. The Clerk is person you would normally contact to make enquiries about the work of the Council.

Information regarding the area which the Parish or Town Council covers (its Electoral Constituency), its Parish Wards, the number of Councillors elected for each, the Electoral Cycle (When the Council will next be elected) should be available from the Council itself via its Website, or alternatively the Clerk. Otherwise, the Democratic Services Department of the corresponding District Level Authority should be able to help, or you can find information from the Local Government Boundary Commission here.


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