Being a Parish Councillor

Election or Co-option?
Parish & town council elections in Cornwall happen every 4 years. If a space appears on the parish council outside of these elections an official casual vacancy notice is put up to call for nominees to fill the space – if no-one comes forward then the parish council are able to fill the gaps by co-option. Co-option means that anyone within the community is able to put themselves forward for the existing members of the parish council to decide on their suitability. Usually you are asked to come along to one of the meetings, see how things run and explain a little about yourself before a vote takes place.

If you think you might like to become a parish councillor but there are currently no spaces free still contact the parish clerk – there could be opportunities for you to work on a specific project or committee without having been elected. They can also let you know if any vacancies arise in the near future that you might be able to fill.

Contact info: Lisa Clements, clerk to Mawnan Parish Council – Tel: 01326 251022 or Email: clerk@mawnan.org.uk

So, what do Councillors do?
Councillors make decisions that influence how the Council works. The decisions they make affect the lives of everyone who lives and works in Falmouth or comes to visit here. Councillors also help people get and access the services they need when they experience difficulties.

If you are a Councillor, you will:
• represent everyone in your area
• be a community leader, bringing together partner organisations
• help sort out problems for the people you represent
• work with community groups, the police and others to get things done
• hold the Council and other public organisations to account for their performance and the decisions they make
• help agree the budget for the Council and the level of tax
• help decide which services the Council will provide
• be honest, open and abide by accepted standards of public life
• work with the Council Officers to help resolve issues in your Ward and receive their support to do your job
• explain and justify Council decisions and policies
• be a public figure and have your contact details published as a point of contact

Could you do it?
It is important that the Council represents a cross section of all the walks of life of our community and that Councillors have different levels of education, knowledge and experience. Using your own skills and experience will help your council make a real difference to your council and your community.
You can stand for election as an independent Councillor or as a representative of a political party, but you must be their duly authorised candidate. You will serve a four-year term and will be required to attend at least one meeting per month.

Does this sound like you?
• involved in community life
• confident
• keen to help people and prepared to listen
• determined
• flexible
• practical
• well organised
• keen to see community initiatives succeed
• good at communicating and working with people

The Small Print’
To be a Councillor you must:
• be at least 18 years old
• be a British, commonwealth or EU citizen
• be on the electoral register, or have lived, worked or owned property in the parish for at least twelve months before the date of election
• you cannot be an employee of the council

How much time will it take?
Every Councillor approaches their role differently, but it does require a significant commitment. You will have agreed to attend every meeting that you are nominated to. On average the Council meets once per month and runs a number of committees in support of its work. There will also be other informal meetings including Cornwall Council network meetings and other community organisations. You may also be appointed as a council representative to an outside body attending those meetings and reporting back to council.

Do I get paid?
The Council will meet the cost of your approved training, travel and subsistence allowances for attending outside meetings. You may also claim expenses to cover mileage to cover authorised travel on behalf of the council.

What training will I receive?
There will be an induction pack provided to all Councillors during their first few months in office to give you a basic grounding in how Mawnan Parish Council operates. You will also be expected to attend a Code of Conduct training session during the first six months. A variety of other training opportunities will be passed onto you by the clerk and may depend on how involved you wish to become, what experience you are bringing with you and which committees you are voted onto.

Standards in Public Life
The Council has signed up to the national requirement to have a code of conduct which promote standards in public life. You must agree to abide by this Code and meet the standards whenever you are acting as a councillor, or when the public would think that you are acting as a councillor. It is essential that you treat all people fairly and respectfully.

The Code of Conduct also requires you to complete a public register of your interests and those of your partner within the parish and this will be published on Cornwall Council’s website. As a Councillor you must declare your interests e.g. business, landholdings, personal etc that may influence the decisions of the Council.

Being a Councillor
Depending on your interests and experience you could find yourself taking on particular responsibilities in your Council work. Whatever role you take on you will need to work closely with other members, Cornwall Councillors and our partner organisations.
Being a local representative : this is a rewarding part of the job and is the role of all councillors. You will work with others to raise issues on behalf of local residents.
Being a member of a Committee: e.g. Planning or Licensing say, where sometimes matters can be very controversial. Committees are a place for a real focus on specific areas of the council’s work and a chance to get involved in the detail of decision making.
Being a council representative : as a councillor you will have opportunities to attend meetings of the Cornwall Council Community Network Panels and meetings of other organisations as a council representative. You will be able to feedback to the council on the work of others.

Working Together
Councillors decide upon policies with advice from the Clerk, who is also there to put council decisions into practice. This is a close working relationship and mutual respect is important.

If you think you might like to become a parish councillor but there are currently no spaces free still contact the parish clerk – there could be opportunities for you to work on a specific project or committee without having been elected. They can also let you know if any vacancies arise in the near future that you might be able to fill.

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