Frequently Asked Questions on Being a Councillor
At our events, we hope that we will be able to answer as many of your questions as possible. However, we know that many of these should be simple and easy to find out, so we've listed some of the questions we feel everyone should have the answers to!
We have included links to other sites that feature more in-depth FAQs and research at the bottom of the page.
What type of councils exist, and how do they work?
West Berkshire is a Unitary Authority with elected members (Councillors) and is responsible for:
- fire and public safety
- social care
- waste management
- trading standards
- rubbish collection
- Council Tax collections
- planning applications
Sitting below that are Parish and town councils; they are also elected and can help on many local issues, like providing:
- public clocks
- bus shelters
- community centres
- play areas and play equipment
- grants to help local organisations
- consultation on neighbourhood planning
They also have the power to issue fixed penalty fines for things like:
- fly posting
- dog offences
For more information on other types of councils, you can visit the GOV.UK website, here.
How much time does being a councillor take up?
Depending on what type of council you would represent, parish, town, or unitary such as West Berkshire determines the amount of time you would need to spend on it. For example, sitting on a parish council could be as little as a couple of hours per month.
It also depends on your specific role within the council and the number of duties you decide to take on; you can determine this, you put in as much time as you have to give.
Do I have to be a member of a political party?
No, you don't. Many people stand as independents and represent their communities based on local issues. You can represent a political party of your choice. If you choose to do this, you will need to be selected by that party to stand as their representative.
You can find more details through the Local Government Association here.
Do I get paid?
You do not get paid; instead, you receive a basic allowance. You can find out more about the West Berkshire Council allowance and expenses system here.
What if my child is ill and I cannot attend a meeting?
We hope that you should always be able to fit your work as a councillor around your other commitments, such as caring for young children. Rather than attending in person, you could join via video, but this is best to discuss at the time, as the rules around meetings and attendance could change.
Do I have to live in the area I represent?
Councillors are elected to a council to represent their local community, so they must live or work in the area.
Do you have a Parental Leave or Maternity Policy?
As it currently stands, West Berkshire Council has a Parental Leave Policy. It does not have a separate Maternity Policy.
Do I need any particular experience to be a councillor?
No, you do not need any particular experience to be a councillor other than having a strong belief in the community you are representing. If you become a Portfolio Holder (like a Cabinet Minister in national Government), you might be selected based on pre-existing experience.
Things to consider that might help you if you have good communication skills and are a good listener. Communication with your residents will form much of your work as a councillor. Being a problem solver is a big part of being a councillor; many of the issues you will be dealing with will be important to the residents that you represent, and they will expect that you should be able to help them solve those problems.
The Electoral Commission has pages explaining the legal side of being a candidate in an election and includes guidance and resources to help you.
Local Government Information Unit has a page on facts and figures to do with local government, it also includes some fun facts too!
On Gov.uk they have a page with more information on becoming a councillor, which also has helpful links to structures of councils and types of elections.
The Fawcett Society campaigns for gender equality and women's rights at work, at home and in public life. Named after Millicent Fawcett who at 19 in 1866 collected signatures on a petition for women's votes.
They have a page based on data following the 2019 local Government elections. The information within this page shows the importance of what we are trying to do by supporting women.
It might seem straightforward when considering if you want to become involved in local politics. However, if you have either a visible or hidden disability, potential barriers could either slow or stop your progress altogether. The Local Government Association have created a PDF for disabled people interested in becoming a councillor, alongside the information, it features case studies of disabled people working as councillors and their journeys.
The National Association of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Councillors (NABAEMC) are a National Cross-Party Association of BAME Local Councillors in the UK. Representing councillors across all political parties, they aim as part of their association to encourage more BAME people to become Councillors and to be involved in the democratic process.