THE DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLE
Across the United Kingdom, 10,000 councils make decisions every day which are intended to improve the lives of their citizens. This is your chance to be one of the 120,000 individual councillors who sit on those councils, and to make a difference.
BECOMING A LOCAL COUNCILLOR
As a local councillor you become a voice for your community, helping develop opportunities for residents and steering the town’s direction. Councillors are community leaders and represent the interests of the communities they serve.
As a councillor, you will have three main responsibilities:
• Getting involved
Councillors are the champions of their community and give residents a voice on the decisions the council makes. As a councillor you’ll have the chance to make a difference in your community by engaging with residents, local groups and businesses to discover their needs. You’ll be making decisions on which services and projects the council should take forward and you’ll be expected to get involved locally to ensure council services are meeting the community’s needs.
THE TOWN COUNCIL
The town council has a responsibility for the well being of the community. Our work falls into three main categories:
• Delivery of services
• Improving the quality of life for residents
• Offering communities a democratic voice
The amount of time you spend representing your community varies depending on how much you are willing to give!
All councillors are expected to attend a monthly meeting of Full Council, which takes place on the first Monday of each calendar month. Apologies for an inability to attend are accepted, but you should be able to make a provisional commitment to this occasion before putting yourself forward for election to the council.
The agenda for matters to be discussed at Full Council is set three clear working days prior to the meeting, and is informed in large part, by discussions and business brought to its attention by one of its Committees.
There are six Committees, concerned with: Finance, Planning, Personnel, Corporate Property, General Purposes and Parks and Open Spaces. Each Committee is made up either six or eight of the elected councillors, and has a chairperson and vice-chairperson. There is no limit to the number of Committees you can join, although the more Committees you involve yourself in, the greater your commitment will need to be!
If you have interest or specialist knowledge in any of these areas, you might consider involving yourself in their work (although this is not a statutory requirement: you can sit on just the Full Council).
Many of the key decisions involved in the council’s work are first raised at Committee level, then brought to Full Council for discussion and resolution in the form of a vote. If you are passionate or concerned about specific issues, it’s wise to engage with the issue early, rather than waiting for it to reach Full Council, when you might find some details have already been agreed upon at the Committee stage.
The order of business and time allotted to discussion of issues at Full Council is decided upon by the Chair of Council. This is the role of Mayor.
The role of Mayor carries a special level of responsibility and you should consider carefully whether you are willing and able to take it on. You will be expected to fulfil a number of duties in addition to attending meetings, some of which will require you to dress in ceremonial robes and wear the chains of office.
While councillors are elected for four years at a time, the post of Mayor is held for one year, with election to the post being voted on by all sixteen councillors at Full Council in May (when the post of Deputy Mayor is also decided). To become Mayor, you must be proposed by another member of the council, and agree to the nomination. Once all nominations have been made, the council will vote, and the person with the most votes is appointed until the following May. (The Mayor and his or her Deputy are entitled to stand again.)
A WORKING COUNCIL
Dartmouth Town Council manages and maintains a portfolio of around 35 properties across the town. These are variously, open to the public, available for temporary hire, or rented on a long term basis by businesses. A few of them are residential, but for the most part they are commercial and generate income for the town.
In the summer of 2018, the council also took over the running and maintenance of Coronation Park, Royal Avenue Gardens and woodland out at the Castle Estate from South Hams District Council.
While members of the council are collectively responsible for the direction and development of the town, being a councillor is a voluntary role: the day to day provision of services is the responsibility of paid staff.
Council staff are civil servants and manage everything from minute-taking and organising council meetings, administration, property maintenance and cemeteries to the collection of allotment payments and the watering of flowerbeds in the parks and gardens of the town. Councillors are expected to support and encourage staff, not work against them, or seek to undermine their efforts.
Becoming a councillor is a responsibility which does not suit everyone. You will need to represent the interests of the entire community, be fair-minded and honest; able to appreciate both sides of a debate and most importantly, be able and willing to compromise: you will be expected to make decisions in the best interests of the entire town and the whole community.
To stand for election to the council you must:
- be a UK or Commonwealth citizen; or be a citizen of the Republic of Ireland; or be a citizen of another Member State of the European Union
- be at least 18 years old
- be an elector of the local council (on the electoral roll) have occupied land or other premises in the area the local council serves (as owner or tenant) for the last 12 months; work in the area local council serves (as your principal or only place of work); or live within three miles of the local council boundary.
Dartmouth Town Council is an equal opportunities body. We are committed to the inclusion and recognition of all groups, regardless of race, culture, ability, ethnicity, gender identity and/or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, religious affiliation or socioeconomic status.
The full range of disqualifications is complex and if you are in any doubt as to your status, you must make every conceivable effort to check you are not disqualified before submitting your election papers: it is a criminal offence to make false statements about your eligibility. You may not stand if:
- you are an employee of the council
- you are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order
- you have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three months or more (including a suspended sentence), without the option of a fine, during the five years before polling day
- you have been disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1983 within the last three to five years (the period varies depending on the specifics of the crime under which you have been charged. You should see further clarification from the returning officer if you have been convicted under this Act)
- you have been disqualified from standing for election to a local authority following a decision of the First-tier Tribunal
Further general information about being a Councillor can be found at : https://beacouncillor.co.uk
The timetable for local elections taking place on the 2nd May: https://www.southhams.gov.uk/article/5035/Local-Elections-2-May-2019
If you have any questions then please come into the Town Council offices or contact us via our contact us page.