Standing as a Councillor

Do you want to speak on behalf of your community? Represent the interests and needs of local people? Shape, direct and monitor local services in the Winchester area? Do you feel you have skills you could contribute…Then why not become a District Councillor?

What do Councillors do?

Members of the Council have the ultimate responsibility for how services are provided in the Winchester City Council District.

Winchester City Council provides a wide range of vital services to around 110,000 people, including planning, housing, environmental health, refuse and recycling collection, museums, tourism, arts, sports and recreation, housing benefits and parking.

The Members are ordinary people from the District, who have been elected to represent one of 26 wards for a term of four years. Depending on its size, each ward has one, two or three Members to represent the interests of the residents. As a Member, you will act as a bridge between the public and the Council. You can expect to spend much of your time dealing with problems and questions from the community.

Most Members sit on one or more of the various committees set up by the Council. Cabinet is the body which makes most decisions and is sometimes described as the 'executive committee'. There are also a number of panels which scrutinise the activities in particular service areas (eg Housing, Environmental Health or Cultural). The determination of planning and licensing applications are particularly important and there are specific committees to deal with these issues.

Ideally, the membership of the Council should reflect the diversity of the population in the District, with a wide range of backgrounds, interests and needs all represented. Although this is not always the case, the Members are all people who wish to improve the effectiveness of local services in the Winchester District, plus represent the views of the people of their ward.

Do I know enough to be a Councillor?

You don't need any previous experience or qualifications to become a Councillor, just a dedication to the community and the District, plus a willingness to learn. Rather than being asked to deliver keynote speeches, initially you will be expected to discuss proposals and represent the views of the electorate. Training and assistance can be offered for anything that you are not too sure about, for example, speaking to the media.

How much of my time will it take up and will I be paid?

The amount of time taken up with Council business depends on the commitments you take on, but can be anything from a few hours a week to several hours a day. If this will affect your job, you should discuss it with your employer before making a decision. A few committees hold their meetings during the day, but most meet in the evenings.

The full Council (all 57 Members) meets approximately eight times per year in the evenings. For most of the meetings you attend, there will be papers you need to read beforehand.

Although you will not get a salary as such, all Members are entitled to receive an annual allowance (currently £5,580), plus travel and subsistence costs. Members who hold certain positions (eg a Portfolio Holder or Chairman) receive an additional allowance to reflect the extra workload commitments involved. An independent group made up of local residents and professional advisors monitors the level of all allowances and a list of how much each Councillor has claimed is published annually in the local press.

Do I have to stand for a political group?

There is no requirement for you to be identified with a political group, although most Councillors are. Political groups may have their own selection processes and can offer support with canvassing and financial costs. Please contact the relevant group for more details.

Remember, if you want to stand purely in your own right, you only need 10 registered electors from the ward you propose to represent to sign your nomination paper. There is no financial deposit required to stand in local elections (unlike a General Election).

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 on a variety of relevant topics.

You will be loaned a PC connected to the Winchester City Council network and email system, to help you with your Council work. If you already have a PC, the necessary connections will be carried out to link you to the Council's system.

Each week, you will be sent a briefing note detailing forthcoming meetings and relevant news, along with committee agendas and other information.

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

How long will I be a Councillor for?

If elected, you will be a Member of the Council until you choose to retire or lose an election.

Elections for one third of the 26 wards take place in each of the first three years of a four year cycle (County Council elections take place in the fourth year). This means you will serve a four year term and will have to stand for re-election at the end of that period, unless you decide otherwise.

What criteria must I fulfil?

  • Candidates must be qualified to stand for election. The Local Government Act 1972, Section 79 (as amended), sets out the qualifications for standing as a candidate and the grounds for disqualification of a candidate.
  • Eligible candidates must be at least 18 years old, and:
    • be on the electoral register for the District, or
    • have worked in the District for the previous year, or
    • have owned or rented land or other premises in the District for the whole of the previous year

The previous year is calculated from the day the candidate is nominated for election.

The candidate must also be a British subject, a citizen of the Irish Republic, or a citizen of the European Union resident in the UK.

A candidate is disqualified from election if he/she:

  • holds any paid office or employment (other than chairman, vice-chairman or deputy chairman), for which appointments are or may be made or confirmed by the local authority or an organisation on which the local authority are represented
  • are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order in England or Wales, have been adjudged bankrupt in Northern Ireland or have had their estate sequested in Scotland
  • has been convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to at least three months imprisonment (including any suspended sentence) within the previous five years
  • is disqualified due to corrupt practices under the Representation of the People Act 1983 or the Audit Commission Act 1998

Want to know more?

If this information has got you thinking more seriously about becoming a Councillor, but you would like to know further details before making a decision, please contact one of the following officers who will be pleased to help:

For information about the work of the Council, its meetings and procedures:

David Blakemore
Democratic Services Manager
City Offices, Colebrook Street, Winchester SO23 9LJ
01962 848 217

For information about the election process, candidate guidance notes and nomination packs:

Electoral Services Manager
City Offices, Colebrook Street, Winchester SO23 9LJ
01962 848 192