Becoming a Councillor

Why be a Councillor?

Councillors are at the heart of local government decision making. They play a vital role in representing the interests and views of local residents.

The main requirement for being a Councillor is that you care about the local community. That you can bring energy, passion and a desire to make a difference for the Isle of Wight as a place to live, work and visit. Our Councillors - town, parish and community - find their roles interesting, varied and rewarding. If, like them, you care about the following things, being a Councillor could be for you:
  • being a voice for your community
  • making sure your community get the right services
  • supporting a resident with an issue
  • helping to shape your local community with new ideas

What is the role of a Councillor?

The Isle of Wight Council is responsible for a wide range of local services, including:

  • education
  • children’s and adult social care
  • housing and regeneration
  • emergency response
  • waste and recycling
  • libraries
  • museums and heritage sites
  • roads and street lighting
  • planning and building regulation
  • community safety

We also have 33 town, parish and community councils that provide services. These range from allotments to public toilets, community centres, play areas and more.

Many people start by standing for election at this level of local government. It's closest to the community in which they live and this makes it a good start. They may consider becoming a County Councillor, but there is no need to do so.

As a Councillor you will be:

  • the local voice at council meetings, helping to shape policy
  • an advocate, helping to resolve problems
  • encouraging local democracy, engaging with your community about decisions that affect them
  • working on opportunities that help to develop the local area

Some Councillors hold regular drop-in surgeries. Surgeries are a chance for residents to meet you and discuss their problems or concerns. On top of this you will be dealing with letters, emails and phone calls from residents. Being a Councillor takes investment of your time but improves the local area for residents, visitors and businesses alike.

You will go to Full Council Meetings, which are regular meetings of all elected Councillors for the Isle of Wight. This is where matters that affect the whole of the Island are discussed and debated. Matters like setting the budget for the Council. You may also be nominated to participate in other committees such as planning. Find out more about all Isle of Wight Council Committees.

The Local Government Association provides a lot of information on what being a Councillor means. Find our more at the Local Government website.

Who can stand as a Councillor?

To stand for election, on the day of nomination, you must be:

  • either be registered to vote on the current register for the Isle of Wight area
  • or have either worked or lived in the Council's area for one year
  • been an owner or tenant of any land or premises in the Council's area for one year

You cannot stand if:

  • you work for the Council
  • or you hold a politically restricted post for another authority
  • 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
  • are subject to any relevant notification requirements, or a relevant order, in respect of a sexual offence
The Local Government and Housing Act 1989 - Part 1 has information about disqualification and politically restricted posts.

You do not need any formal qualifications to become a councillor. Being a good Councillor needs skills and experience that best represents your local community. These could include skills gained through volunteering or working with community groups. You need to be well organised, and someone who can apply themselves to problems. You will also need to be able to communicate well with a wide range of public and professional bodies.

We need people with the background and experience that reflects their community to put themselves forward for election.

If you are thinking of becoming a councillor, there is some great support available for you – our Councillors! Email the democratic services team. They will be happy to introduce you to a Councillor so you can gain their unique perspective in a friendly and informal way.

How long am I a Councillor?

  • The term of office is four years. At the end of this time, you can retire from office or stand for re-election
  • You can choose to retire from office at any time
  • If you stand to replace a Councillor who has retired during the year (not at a scheduled election) you will serve as a Councillor for the remainder of that person's term of office

Can I work and be a Councillor?

Yes. A full-time job is no bar to being a Councillor. However, you will need to do some Council duties during normal office hours as part of your role. By law, your employer must provide a reasonable amount of time off work for your duties. We recommended you talk to your employer to discuss the practicalities.

Is it a political role?

The majority of Councillors are members of political parties. But you don't need to be and independent candidates have just as vital role to play.

Political parties can provide advice and support to prospective Councillors. They can also help with campaigning. Independent candidates need to develop their own support network. However, there are groups of independent councillors that can provide this support. Once elected, all members receive the same support and training from their Council, regardless of any affiliation.

Do I get paid to be a Councillor?

Councillors receive a basic allowance for time and expenses while on Council business. There is also a carer allowance which covers expenses incurred whilst attending Council meetings. The allowance is set and reviewed by an independent remuneration panel which makes its recommendation to Full Council.

Councillor will also qualify for a special responsibility allowance if they take on an extra role. These allowances vary according to the role.

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

It is possible to spend a lot of time on Council work. The average is around 15 hours per week. 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. Meetings are open for the public to attend unless an item is deemed to be exempt. You will receive many e-mails and letters plus phone calls from residents, businesses and council officers. You will also need to read reports and other Board/Committee documents in preparation for meetings. The time you need to provide will vary upon the specific demands of your role, but just a few hours a week could make a difference. The actual time you spend will vary dependent on your responsibility.

How do I become a Councillor?

The answer depends on whether you want to represent a political party or stand as an independent candidate. If you want to represent a political party, then the next step would be to get involved with your party locally as soon as possible. This will help you find out more about what the role entails, who you will be working with and what it takes to win elections. Contact details can be found on the Electoral Commission’s register of political parties.

If you are thinking of standing as an independent candidate, you'll need to start building your local profile and join any independent networks that exist.

The Electoral Services team at the Isle of Wight Council can also provide detailed information on the nomination process and in the run up to elections when they are being held. The Electoral Commission provides a wide range of information for prospective candidates on all types of election which you can find by following the link to Electoral Commission's website.

Elections are usually held on the first Thursday in May and the process begins towards the end of March when a Notice of Election is published. This includes the nomination timetable and who to contact for advice if you wish to stand for election. However, elections may take place at other times when a vacancy occurs during the normal term of office. After the nomination period, the Council will publish the names, addresses and descriptions (if any) of the candidates. Just before the election there is a Notice of Poll which contains details of the date of the Election, details of the candidates and where to vote.

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 your term of office on a variety of relevant topics.

Council staff will help in any way they can, such as advice about council procedures or problems in your ward. Our officers must be politically impartial. This means they won't be able to help with any matter that could be seen as supporting a political party or pressure group.