How to become a Parish Councillor

Every 4 years there is a local election and anyone who qualifies to stand can put themselves forward for election.

If a vacancy becomes available within this 4 year term and no election is called then Parish Councillors can co-opt a new member. When we have a vacancy here is the co-option process and application form to put yourself forward

Co option application form 2024

Co -option policy

Role of a Parish Councillor?

Read the Good-Councillors-Guide 

To appreciate what is involved in being a parish councillor, people need to know what a parish council is and what it can and cannot do. It is important to get the image of the Vicar of Dibley out of your mind!

“Your Parish Council is the local authority closest to the Electorate.”

Each councillor has their own reasons for running but the role offers the chance to make a huge difference to the quality of life for people in your local area.

Being an effective councillor requires both commitment and hard work. Councillors have to balance the needs and interests of residents and the council. As a minimum, the parish council meets once a month and our most effective Councillors prepare by reading the paperwork provided ahead of the meeting. Councillors who also engage with the local community between meetings help progress projects and issues quickly and effectively.

Training is available and support will be found from colleagues, the Clerks to the council as well as from external training providers.

Councillors have a duty to behave in an ethical manner according to a Code of Conduct (declaring interests and leaving the room when likely to be prejudiced) and a duty to have the annual accounts subjected to audit.

All councillors retire after a four-year term but can stand again as many times as they wish; casual vacancies may well arise in the intervening period. Being co-opted is a useful way of seeing if you like being a local councillor before the next full elections.

We need people from all backgrounds and experiences who reflect the communities they serve to put themselves forward for election. You don’t need any experience or special qualifications. Your life experience, everyday skills, passion and commitment to people and communities are vital, and it’s important that councils reflect the local population.

To be a councillor you need to be:

  • 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. Please check on the website for advice about EU citizens’ voting and candidacy rights in local elections.
  • At least 18 years old.
  • Registered to vote in the area or have lived, worked, or owned property there for at least 12 months before an election.

You can’t be a councillor if you:

  • Work for the council you want to be a councillor for, you can work for another local authority as long as you are not in a political restricted post.
  • Are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order.
  • Have been sentenced to prison for three months or more (including suspended sentences) during the five years before election day.
  • Have been convicted of a corrupt or illegal practice by an election court.
  • Are subject to any relevant notification requirements, or a relevant order, in respect of a sexual offence.

Please read the full eligibility criteria from the Electoral Commission. If you are in any doubt about whether you are eligible to stand as a councillor, you should contact the Electoral Services or Democratic Services team at your local council or the Electoral Commission for advice.

More about the Parish Council

A parish council is a separate legal, corporate entity. First created by the Local Government Act of 1894 in most rural areas, the current consolidated legislation is that of 1972. The parish council is nothing to do with the Church or the Diocese; nor is it a voluntary and community sector body.

A parish council also provides services for the local people. South Petherton’s services range from recreation grounds and play areas, to cemeteries, allotments, a library and more. There is a list of the activities that a parish council has the power to provide. Like any statutory body it can only do the things for which the law or any governing document gives a power.

The parish council has one particular asset that is extremely valuable — it has the ability to set a Precept (sum of money), which is collected from all residents through the Council Tax system. Councillors are responsible for ensuring this precept is spent wisely and on what the residents require.

So, if you want to do more for your community, if you want to spend your time productively and if you can think, listen and act locally – become a parish councillor!