Becoming a Councillor

At a local level  you are represented by Parish Councillors and District Councillors. Parish Councillors represent one Parish. District Councillors represent a group of Parishes called a Ward. Both types of Councillors sit on their respective Councils.

If you would like to become a District Councillor, the frequently asked questions below may help you.

We have also added some external links to useful websites to this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:Who can stand for election?

Q:Do I need any qualifications to be a district councillor?

Q:What do councillors do?

Q:How do councillors keep in touch with their wards?

Q:What's the time commitment?

Q:What standards of personal conduct are expected of councillors?

Q:Do councillors get paid?

Q:How long is the term as a district councillor?

Q:Can I be a district councillor and keep my existing job?

Q:Will the public be able to contact me at home or via West Somerset Council?

Q:Are computers and stationery provided for councillors?

Q:What training and development is available for councillors?

Q:What if I want to stand as a candidate for a political party?

Q:Will I need to use my own personal money for election campaign materials like flyers?

Q:Where can I get nomination forms?

Q:What's the difference between Somerset County Council, West Somerset Council and the local Parish Council?


Q:Who can stand for election?
A:Almost anyone can be a councillor.

You must be:

  • At least 18 on the day of nomination
  • A British subject or an Irish Republic or European Union citizen living in the United Kingdom.
  • On the West Somerset District's electoral register or have lived, worked or owned property in the district for at least the last 12 months.
  • You will also need to have your nomination signed by ten people who are on the electoral register in the ward you wish to contest.

You can't stand for election if you:

  • Already work for West Somerset Council.
  • Are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order.
  • Have a criminal conviction involving a prison sentence of three months or more (including a suspended sentence) in the last five years.
  • Are otherwise specifically disqualified from holding office by order of the court.

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Q:Do I need any qualifications to be a district councillor?
A:No.

You don't need any previous experience, but an understanding of how a council works would be helpful.  If elected, you will be offered training to help you carry out your duties.

Councillors come from all walks of life, and we welcome people from all backgrounds.

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Q:What do councillors do?
A:The main role of councillors is to represent their ward and the people living in it. Councillors are the bridge between the community and the council.

Councillors need to:

  • Keep informed about the needs of their area.
  • Represent their community on West Somerset Council and other bodies.
  • Be accessible to the people in their area and, ideally, available by telephone.
  • Play a leading role in their area and keep in contact with local groups, societies and town and parish councils.
  • Keep the people in their area informed about their work.
  • Councillors also participate in the political management of the council.  All 31 councillors agree the budget and the council's policy framework.  Additionally, councillors may be asked to serve as members of panels, committees or the Cabinet.
  • Most meetings are open to the public, and you are welcome to attend if you would like to see how West Somerset’s political structures work.
  • Councillors may also represent West Somerset on a wide range of local and regional outside organisations such community organisations, partnership boards, charities and trusts.
  • Councillors can spend several hours a week attending meetings and reading documents.

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Q:How do councillors keep in touch with their wards?
A:There are lots of ways that councillors can keep in touch with their wards.

They include:

  • Holding surgeries
  • Issuing newsletters
  • Setting up a website
  • Campaigning on local issues
  • Working with the community to find solutions to local problems
  • Helping to win resources for their ward
  • Supporting local partnerships and organisations

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Q:What's the time commitment?
A:Depending on a councillor's particular role, the time commitment can range from a few hours each week to several hours every day.

Councillors need to be committed to attend training and development as part of the induction process, attendance for newly elected Councillors is compulsory. 

Councillors need to attend meetings, which are usually held at West Somerset House in Williton. Some of the meetings are held in the evening. If you are in employment, you may need to discuss the time commitment with your employer. 

Other calls on councillors' time may involve evidence gathering for scrutiny exercises and attending seminars and briefings. Councillors also need to devote some time to induction and training. 

For most of the meetings councillors attend, there are associated papers, which need to be read beforehand. 

Local people look to councillors for help in dealing with their problems, whether or not these fall strictly within West Somerset Council's remit. Councillors receive a lot of post, telephone calls and emails.  Not every caller will telephone at a reasonable hour.

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Q:What standards of personal conduct are expected of councillors?
A:The way councillors act in office, particularly over matters where they have a financial or personal interest, is governed both by law and by a code of conduct.

Councillors are required to sign a declaration stating that they undertake to observe West Somerset Council's code of conduct for councillors.  They are also required to declare certain financial and other interests that they have.

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Q:Do councillors get paid?
A:Each councillor receives a basic allowance, which is paid in monthly instalments.

The allowance recognises the time devoted by councillors to their work, including inevitable calls on their time such as meetings, and incidental costs such as the use of their home and telephone.

In addition, councillors may claim travel and, in some cases, subsistence for their attendance at approved events.

Some councillors also receive a special responsibility allowance in recognition of particular duties they undertake.

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Q:How long is the term as a district councillor?
A:Four years.

You can stand for re-election at the end of the term if you wish.  You can also resign before the four years are over.

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Q:Can I be a district councillor and keep my existing job?
A:Yes.

Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 says that an employer is required to permit an employee reasonable time off during the employee's working hours to perform any of the duties as a member of a local authority, which includes attending committee meetings.

However, there is no statutory right for time off with pay to be granted for this purpose.  You should discuss this with your employer.

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Q:Will the public be able to contact me at home or via West Somerset Council?
A:Yes. The public will be able to contact you via West Somerset Council and should also be able to contact you at your home address.

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Q:Are computers and stationery provided for councillors?
A:Yes.

Computers offer a fast and efficient means for councillors to keep in touch with their community. They also help to reduce communications costs. More and more council business is being transacted electronically. To make sure that they are kept fully briefed, councillors need to use computer systems.

West Somerset Council provides councillors with a laptop.  All councillors receive IT induction training and ongoing support as required. Councillors are also provided with an email address that appears on West Somerset Council's website along with their contact details.

Council stationery, along with photocopying, and postage of letters on council business are provided.

Additionally, there is a Members' Room at West Somerset House, Williton where current publications and council documents may be viewed.

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Q:What training and development is available for councillors?
A:There will be a programme of induction and training sessions for new councillors after the elections which is compulsory. As well as this initial training, there is on-going development training to support councillors to be effective in their roles.

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Q:What if I want to stand as a candidate for a political party?
A:If you are thinking of standing as a candidate for a particular political party, you should first get in touch with that party’s local organisation. Many parties also have national websites through which you can get information.

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Q:Will I need to use my own personal money for election campaign materials like flyers?
A:Yes, unless a political party is willing to cover these costs for you.

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Q:Where can I get nomination forms?
A:You can complete an online request form, phone or email for nomination forms. Contact details for West Somerset’s Electoral Services are shown at the bottom of this page.

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Q:What's the difference between Somerset County Council, West Somerset Council and the local Parish Council?
A:In Somerset there are three levels of local government, county, district and town or parish.

  • Somerset County Council sources and manages Somerset’s education, roads, highways, library services and social services.
  • West Somerset Council manages services such as recycling and refuse collection, street cleaning, planning and building control, housing, community and economic regeneration, environmental health and licensing, and some parks.  It also administers benefits and the collection of council tax and business rates in West Somerset.
  • Parish Councils manage the upkeep of some local parks, benches and street lighting and organises the cutting of grass and verges in the local parish boundaries.  Parish Councils also act as consultees for planning applications. 

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Contact the Taunton Deane and West Somerset Shared Electoral Services Office

West Somerset House
Killick Way
Williton
Taunton
Somerset
TA4 4QA

Email: elections@westsomerset.gov.uk
Telephone: 01643 703704