How to become a councillor

  • Have you ever wanted to make a difference for your local community?
  • Have you ever wanted to speak on behalf of your local community and to help local people?
  • Do you want to contribute your professional or business or lobbying skills to help your local community?

If your answer to any of these questions is a resounding yes then maybe you should consider standing for election as a local councillor.

If your council is to be sensitive to the needs of the community, it requires councillors with a wide range of talents and interests who reflect the diversity of the population as a whole.  Above all, they must be people who want to shape, direct and monitor the effectiveness of local services for the benefit of the people of Ealing.

The following information will answer the questions you have about becoming a local councillor.

What is the role of a councillor?

The role of a councillor is varied and demanding. As a councillor you would represent the views of local people with a special emphasis on those in your own ward. Your role will also depend on whether you are in the majority party or in the opposition. Currently eight members of the majority party form the Cabinet, which is the principal decision-making body. Other councillors are called backbenchers.

Councillors are a key component in setting policy, scrutinising service delivery and sitting on committees such as planning and licensing.  At an equally important level is the carrying out of ward work and resolving problems for constituents.

Being a councillor is a commitment and investment by you to improving the local area for residents, visitors and businesses. It is both challenging and very rewarding.

Am I able to stand for Council?

If you want to stand as a councillor in Ealing you need to be:

  • at least 18 years old – there is no maximum age limit
  • a British, Irish, EU or Commonwealth citizen
  • registered as a local government elector in the London Borough of Ealing; or have lived or had your principal place of work in the borough for 12 months before standing; or have been an owner or tenant of any land or premises in the borough for a least 12 months before standing.

You do not need any formal qualifications to stand as a councillor.

You cannot stand if:

  • you work for your local council
  • or you hold a politically restricted post for another organisation
  • or you are subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order,
  • or you have served a prison sentence (including suspended sentences) of three months or more within five years prior to the election,
  • or you have been disqualified under any legislation relating to corrupt or illegal practices

Do I have to belong to a political party or group?

You do not have to belong to a political party to stand for election.  It is possible to stand as an independent (a candidate who does not belong to a particular political party).  Advice on becoming a politically independent councillor.  

If you’re thinking of standing as a candidate for a particular party then you will need to be a member of that party’s local organisation.  More information about political parties can be found on the Electoral Commission website.

More information on the nomination process 

How long will I be a councillor?

The term of office is four years. At the end of this time you can retire or stand for re-election. You can choose to retire at any time.

If you stand to replace a councillor who has retired during the year (not at a scheduled election or by-election) you will serve as a councillor for the remainder of that person's term of office.

Do I need an agent?

Candidates normally appoint an election agent to act on their behalf. Election agents receive all correspondence and notices from the council, are entitled to attend the opening of postal votes and the counting of votes. Agents must make an expenses return to the local authority within the specified period. It is not necessary to appoint an election agent; candidates may act as their own agent.  

Counting agents appointed by either the candidate or election agent attend the counting of votes to oversee the counting process.

I’ve decided to stand for election. What do I do now?

Once you have decided to stand for election you/or your agent will need to complete a nomination paper available from the electoral services office whose contact details are listed below. This needs to be completed and submitted soon after the Notice of Election is published, usually within 11 days. The nomination paper must contain your full name and home address and be signed (subscribed) by 10 registered electors from the ward in which you are standing as a candidate. The first two will sign as proposer and seconder, and the remaining eight registered electors as assentors.

More information on the electoral process

Once elected, what support will I get?

As a new councillor, you will be invited to take part in an induction programme, introducing you to the workings of the council. Training for councillors continues throughout their term of office on a variety of relevant topics.

The professional officers working at the council are available to assist you in any way they can, such as advice about council procedures or problems in your ward. As all officers must be politically impartial, they cannot assist in any matter that could be seen as supporting a particular political party or pressure group.

For more information, contact Keith Fraser, Head of Democratic Services, on (020) 8825 7497 or email fraserk@ealing.gov.uk

Payments to councillors

Councillors are not paid, but they receive a 'members allowance' to recompense them for time and money spent on council business.

Two types of allowances exist for councillors:

  • Basic Allowance (paid to all councillors)
  • Special Responsibility Allowance (paid to those councillors who carry out special duties such as being the chairman of a committee)

Each local authority can decide the level of these allowances but are required to set up independent panels to recommend local schemes of allowances. In addition, councillors can claim for travel and subsistence allowances. A dependent carers allowance is also available

Latest scheme of allowances for Ealing councillors

How much time would I need to invest in being a councillor?

It is possible to spend a lot of time on council work. It can be a challenge to balance this with having a job, a family and hobbies. Most of the meetings you would attend as a councillor are in the evening.

An average backbench councillor may spend between 5-20 hours a week on ward work alone. You will receive many emails and letters plus phone calls from residents, businesses and council officers. You will also need to read reports and other committee documents in preparation for meetings. Those with an executive or chairing role will have a greater workload.

To conclude

If you have ever had concerns about the future of local services and felt that you could be a voice for your community in pursuing the public interest, then you should definitely consider becoming a councillor.

Those already working in local government find the role interesting, exciting and challenging and there is the opportunity to specialise in a particular topic or area of interest.

You can make a difference to your community and to the whole of Ealing. For a taster of the way the council works see if you can attend a meeting and get a flavour of the life of a councillor.