MAKE A CHANGE BECOME A COUNCILLOR
Are you passionate about your community? Do you want to help make a long-lasting change? Do you have innovative ideas for the council? Do you have concerns about a specific issue and want to do something about it? If this is you, then we need you. We need people from all backgrounds and experiences who reflect their community to put themselves forward for election. Make a change and become a councillor.
Here, you will find everything you need to know. We explain what local councils and councillors do, how you can become a councillor, details of the role and what to expect, and local councils a range of resources to help recruit candidates.
What do local councils and councillors do?
Local (parish and town) councils and councillors make a massive difference to local people's quality of life. They are passionate about their communities and seek to make a change to help improve their residents' lives.
Local councils run numerous services, depending on the size of the council. Many you will see day-to-day, but some are less known. These include introducing solar panels, setting up dementia-friendly groups, organising community buses, creating neighbourhood plans, implementing suitable housing, establishing youth projects, managing allotments and open spaces, maintaining footpaths, public seating and litter bins.
Councillors are elected to represent the local community, so you must either live or work in the council area. Becoming a councillor is a rewarding experience as you will be able to make a change in your community to help improve residents' lives. A councillor’s role can include developing strategies and plans for the area, helping with problems and ideas, representing the community, working with other local community groups, decision making and reviewing decisions and talking to the community about their needs and what the council is doing.
How to become a councillor
Local councils can only be as helpful, connected and energetic as the people elected to run them, so we need councillors capable, enthusiastic and engaged to reflect their communities. You can find out more about becoming a councillor on The Electoral Commission and Local Government Association website. There are three ways that you can become a councillor; standing for election, filling a vacant seat after an election (co-opted) or filling a casual vacancy.
Standing for election
There are six simple steps to becoming a councillor:
- Check for elections in your area by emailing your elections officer
- Submit your nomination to the returning officer — find out more about the process.
- Wait for your nomination to be accepted
- Your nomination is made public by the principal authority
- Start your elections campaign
- Polling day — find your polling station
Vacancies after an election (co-option)
If, after an election, there are some unfilled seats, the local council should take steps to fill any vacancies by making co-options within 35 days (not counting weekends and public holidays). However, if the council does not have enough elected members to be a quorum (meaning at least one-third of the council must be elected or three members, whichever is greater), the electoral returning officer must run a by-election to fill the remaining places.
What does a candidate need to do?
- Check with their electoral returning officer if there is a vacancy near you
- Put yourself forward for co-option
- The council may ask you for a CV or invite you for an interview
- The council will choose their co-opted councillor
A casual vacancy is a seat that becomes available between elections, which may occur for several different reasons, such as a councillor resigning, becoming disqualified (by committing an offence) or not attending any meetings in six months.
The council clerk will declare the vacancy by posting a note within the parish and notifying the electoral returning officer.
This notice will also confirm that a by-election will be held if at least ten electors request it within 14 days (not including weekends and public holidays). If there is no demand for a by-election, the council will fill the vacancy by co-option.
The Make A Change campaign encourages local councils to engage with as many residents from their community as possible. It will help improve local councils through various experiences, skills, and knowledge and help councils become representatives of their communities.
NALC has produced resources for your local council to help residents stand for election. See below:
Communications pack — NALC has designed several resources for the pack, including an editable promotional poster and information flyer, press release, email text, social media posts and visual assets.
Timetable for local elections — a resource to help understand the deadlines for the election process.
FAQs — frequently asked questions about local elections.
Five things you can do to promote local elections — a resource giving ideas and examples of what can be done to promote local elections.
Make A Change, become a councillor event — leading up to the May 2021 local elections, NALC held a free online public event on everything you need to know about local councils and what they do, the role of a councillor and how to become one. The event featured viral sensation Jackie Weaver, a group of community heroes and Times Radio presenter Matt Chorley.
Elect Her — A non-partisan organisation working to motivate, support and equip women in all their diversity to stand for political office in Britain. They support women at every stage of their political journey and demystify the process of standing for elected office by providing free workshops, training programmes and online resources.
Campaign in a Box — Elect Her provide an online suite of resources to explore at your own pace that provides you with guidance on how to plan, budget and implements your election campaign. Including template documents and guidance, this is the one-stop shop of tools you need to campaign confidently. Ahead of the May 2023 local elections, women signed up to Campaign in a Box will also receive invitations to join a series of live online workshops to focus on developing specific skills required for campaigning and building a supportive network of women standing in local elections across England.
LGA Council toolkit — A checklist is built from good practice at councils, covering a range of steps, options and ideas to help you run your own local Be a Councillor campaign.
Local council elections 2022 report
The report's purpose was to gather insightful data to provide an overview of the 2022 local elections. This data captured will assist NALC's future campaigns and help shape the resources available for local councils, local councillors and county associations.
NALC is committed to supporting local councils, councillors and county associations in promoting elections, attracting new councillors, increasing the numbers of contested elections, delivering more media coverage and digitising and simplifying the nominations process for future local council elections.
NALC collected qualitative and quantitative data from local councillors, local councils and county associations across England between May and July 2022. The survey received 462 responses.
Hear from councillors themselves on why they became councillors and what their role is at their local council. We have produced a series of videos that tell the stories of councillors. These community heroes are proof that you, too, can make a change in your community.
Cllr Emily Benner, Croxley Green Parish Council
Cllr Emily Benner moved to Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, in 2017 and was inspired to join Croxley Green Parish Council by their work in the community. Cllr Benner was co-opted into a casual vacancy in February 2018. By 2019, she was appointed vice-chair of the Leisure, Events & Environment committee and shortlisted for NALC's Star Council Awards Young Councillor of the Year. Being a councillor provided a platform to make her ideas a reality and maintain the village's friendly atmosphere for generations to come.
Cllr Benner has broadened the council's reach to reflect young people in the community by creating videos, using social media to encourage democracy, updating council policies to be inclusive, and running events like quiz night self-defence classes.
One of Cllr Benner's key achievements in the community is setting up a charitable project to provide Christmas gifts to people in local care homes with no loved ones. The project started in 2015 and by 2019 was reaching 674 people across 43 care homes, bringing together over 200 volunteers.
Cllr Belinda Bawden, Lyme Regis Town Council
Cllr Belinda Bawden joined Lyme Regis Town Council, Dorset, in 2019 to give back to her community. She hoped that becoming a councillor would enable her to galvanise her community to tackle climate change.
Cllr Bawden’s specialist project is around transport and sustainability as she has been involved in a project with The Royal College of Art (RCA) and Transport Planning Society (TPS). This project has been running remotely through the COVID-19 pandemic and featured a survey for residents on their hopes for the town and ideas for future sustainable transport options. The RCA survey reached a broad and diverse range of residents coordinated through the community support group. This COVID-19 response has been in place since March 2019 by shopping, delivering prescriptions and providing friendly phone calls for residents.
82% of respondents said environmental issues like climate change were their top priority for the town. The project provided rich information for the council on what residents care about; affordable, reliable, low-carbon transport. The RCA project leaders, working with government officials, are now aiming to test their innovative community engagement toolkit in Lyme Regis while liaising with the Dorset council to help overcome barriers to change in the pathway to Net-Zero.
Cllr Michaella Biscomb, Kippax Parish Council
Cllr Michaella Biscomb first got involved in her local council whilst at university when she volunteered to run their social media accounts. In 2018, Cllr Biscomb was co-opted onto Kippax Parish Council and was formally elected and appointed vice-chair in 2020.
Cllr Biscomb is passionate about the representation of young people in her community and currently chairs the Youth & Leisure Committee. Her work in this role has allowed her to oversee renovations to a local sports centre, consultations on new parks, and the installation of tennis courts and outdoor gyms.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cllr Biscomb played an instrumental part in her local council’s response by coordinating a local volunteers network and was instrumental in setting up Kippax Food Bank by performing risk assessments, conducting health and safety assessments, arranging the appropriate training, and managing the finances. She also volunteered at the food bank every weekend to pack and deliver parcels to residents in need.
Cllr Biscomb’s willingness to get stuck in, come up with creative solutions and deliver meaningful initiatives ensure the council is doing its best to serve the community. In recognition of this work, she was awarded Young Councillor of the Year at NALC’s Star Council Awards 2021.
Cllr Anita Collier, Frome Town Council
Cllr Anita Collier was elected as deputy mayor in 2019 and in May 2020 as mayor of Frome Town Council, Somerset. She has always been passionate about people’s wellbeing and works with local groups tackling mental health, loneliness, caring, dementia and, homelessness, the latter being her most significant concern. Cllr Collier, therefore, became the director of Fair Housing for Frome. She also works with vocational training groups to encourage opportunities for training and up-skilling ready for the workplace.
Cllr Collier became a councillor as she has always had a great love and admiration for Frome. She had been impressed by recent council activity during the last ten years, mainly driven by a group of independent councillors who have focused solely on what’s best for the town and wanted to be a part of that so, stood for election in May 2018.
During COVID-19, as well as being involved in neighbourhood groups, encouraging people to check on their neighbours, offering support and creating shared street activity, Cllr Collier is also mindful of the stress experienced in the business community. Consequently, as mayor, she conducts a weekly walkabout to engage with businesses, checking on their issues and offering any support that she can.
Cllr Andrew Cooper, Northwich Town Council
Cllr Andrew Cooper first became involved in Northwich Town Council, Chesire after winning a by-election in December 2013. At the time, Northwich was in the early stages of its regeneration and, Cllr Cooper was inspired to stand for election to try and help shape that. He was also particularly concerned about the rates of child poverty in the town and, although local councils have limited resources, Cllr Cooper wanted to see what the council could do that would make a difference.
Local politics is a team sport and works best when the council, its officers, its business partners and, the community are all working together with a cooperative endeavour. The council has been able to boost Northwich's regeneration by working collaboratively and running events in the town centre. As a collective, they have supported families in the holidays with play schemes and provided an Advantage Fund to schools to assist deprived children with extracurricular activities.
One of Cllr Cooper's key contributions has been developing Northwich's Neighbourhood Plan that will set a course for the community’s development now and into the future. By focusing development on the brownfield sites left behind from our industrial legacy and protecting and enhancing the green spaces that make Northwich special.
Cllr Donna Fuller, Woughton Community Council
Cllr Donna Fuller became a councillor over 20 years ago as she wanted to invest in the community that her children grew up in. Now a grandmother, Cllr Fuller has made a large impact on young people around Woughton through her work on Woughton Community Council in Milton Keynes.
Woughton Community Councils youth service provides lots of services: from open access and specialist youth sessions to special education needs to sexual health support. Cllr Fuller assists the council in providing a place for young people to access music, a gym, arts, sports and crafts. This support range supports hundreds of young people at thousands of sessions each year and provides many children with their only hot meal of the day.
Cllr Fuller's specialist project, the Play Rangers project, uses open green spaces in the community, enabling families to play together and offering a check-in service during the school holidays. Over the past two years, the project has provided sessions on each estate in the community and provides a consistent, accessible presence across the community all year round.
Cllr Mathew Hulbert, Barwell Parish Council
Cllr Hulbert first stood for election a decade ago because he is passionate about his village and wanted to make changes for the better. Becoming a councillor is a way Cllr Hulbert could be an innovator for the community. He has always been a big believer in public service so becoming a local councillor was an obvious option to give back to the community.
After a few years off, in 2019, Cllr Hulbert returned to the Barwell Parish Council, Leicestershire with three key priorities. To tackle climate change and improve the village's biodiversity, to support the local charity sector and, to provide youth work provision for young people in the community.
Cllr Hulbert was amongst those in the council who worked alongside the community and the Football Association to secure a new football pavilion for the village. Whilst Cllr Hubert's proudest achievement to date is providing Christmas deliveries to residents during December 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted those in the community that needed extra assistance and support during this crucial time and as a pillar of the community, the council was able to provide this.
Cllr Chelsey Jay, Witham Town Council
Cllr Jay is an independent councillor who ran in 2019, as she could not see herself represented in her local council. As an Essex girl with a disability from a council estate, Cllr Jay wanted to provide a different perspective to Witham Town Council, Essex. She wanted to use her voice and agency and change things for the better in her community.
Cllr Jay’s specialist project is a motion that she fought for and won to create a Witham LGBTQ+ Network, a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community in Witham. Cllr Jay is also proudly the first Witham LGBTQ+ Ambassador. Cllr Jay is also passionate about combating climate change in Essex and is focussing on tree planting around her community.
Cllr Jay uses her authentic voice through her politics to connect with residents around vital local issues. Cllr Jay is proud to represent Witham and encourages people from all backgrounds and experiences to stand as a local councillor.
Cllr Farzana Kharawala, Leighton-Linslade Town Council
Cllr Farzana Kharawala has been a resident of Leighton Buzzard since 2004 and has always been involved in helping her local community before she was elected to Leighton-Linslade Town Council, in 2015.
Cllr Kharawala became involved in her local council to ensure that voices in her community are represented in the right forum and is passionate about inspiring others to get involved with their local council. She has used her platform to support young people, for example through the council’s Young People Award. She hopes that her work helps to give younger generations a sense of pride in their community, echoing the council’s vision of a town to be proud of.
In 2020, Cllr Kharawala was asked by the town mayor to take over the role and was inaugurated at the council’s annual meeting, held online due to COVID-19 restrictions. In her role as town mayor, she has been able to fundraise for local charities which support young people with mental health issues, families in need, and residents dealing with cancer.
Cllr Lucy Lewin, Uppingham Town Council
Cllr Lucy Lewin is a local business owner and a councillor for Uppingham Town Council in Rutland. Cllr Lewin saw her local town council as a voice for her community and wanted to ensure that all residents were represented, supported, and provided. As the owner of a local children's nursery, she is committed to the future of young people in her community and joined her local council to become a change agent and invest back into her local community.
One project that Cllr Lewin has helped to establish is the Neighbourhood Plan. One of the appointed sites for new homes in the Neighbourhood Plan has now applied to become a Residents Association Group. This example demonstrates that when a council invests in their community, the community pulls together and reinvests in themselves. Cllr Lewin has also identified the need for a Local Land Trust so that the council can invest money in community homes for residents. Cllr Lewin is proud of her local council and her involvement in shaping it to serve her community best.
Cllr Josephine Parish, Corfe Castle Parish Council
Cllr Josephine Parish sits on Corfe Castle Parish Council in Dorset. She joint leads on the Corfe Castle Parish Council Environment Working Group, which addresses ecological and climate emergencies. Cllr Parish assisted the Environment Working Group in creating clear terms of reference, which enables the group to help join the dots, working with the National Trust to improve Biodiversity, working with other groups to form a wider Purbeck Energy Group, Planet Purbeck (an umbrella group) and, a forming Dorset Climate Action Network (CAN). In addition to this, Cllr Parish is also a member of the NALC's Climate Change Task and Finish Group looking to support councils in tackling climate change.
Writing terms of reference is Cllr Parish's most significant achievement, so far, as it gives the council the freedom to work with individuals, businesses and groups in the Purbeck area and the wider Dorset Council area in the pursuit of the common goal. Many councillors are involved in the working group and, the real strength is in working together; everyone working together are the champions.
Cllr Rachael Pearson, Denmead Parish Council
Cllr Rachael Pearson is a resident of Denmead in Hampshire and is passionate about bringing Denmead together to incorporate disability within the community. Cllr Pearson is a mother to disabled children whilst being on the Autistic Spectrum herself. She brings her unique skill to the council and is a National Diversity winner for being a positive role model. Cllr Pearson's specialist project, Autism Isolation No More, looks to prevent isolation for families in her community that are affected by an autistic spectrum condition. Cllr Pearson fundraised and provided sensory equipment so that local families could receive inclusive support. Cllr Pearson became a councillor to serve her community and encourage people with disabilities to consider becoming councillors. Cllr Pearson believes that the best councils are the ones with councillors from all different backgrounds, with a wide variety of viewpoints and experiences.
Denmead Parish Council also offers support for people with dementia in their community through a community cafe, which hosts speakers and various activities every month. In addition to this, the council is supporting a new memory cafe which supports cinema events.
Cllr Nick Penny, Coleford Town Council
Cllr Nick Penny was just 27 when he joined Coleford Town Council in Gloucestershire because he felt that he had the energy to make a difference in his community and bring fresh ideas to the council.
In 2018, Cllr Penny was honoured to lead a £1.2m recreational scheme for Coleford that delivered much-needed facilities for local young people. These facilities include a skate park and a multi-use game area set in a tranquil environment and access to all. The facilities include a wildlife pond, an amphitheatre, exercise and balance trails, as well as large open green spaces for all to enjoy. The council is now looking at developing a walking and cycling hub to support tourism and our residents.
One of Cllr Penny's achievements is Coleford Town Council's strategic five-year plan, which is now in its second run. By having the structure of a plan, Coleford can budget to deliver much more over the term of office and set the following council up with foundations to build upon. This structure has resulted in the council providing the Bells Field Recreational Scheme, a Tourist Information Centre, town twinning, regular events programme, community grants, strong links with local businesses and schools.
Cllr Heather Pinky-McLean, Newhaven Town Council
Cllr Heather Pinky-McLean is best known locally to organise a beach protest over plans for a concrete plant. She loves her community and felt that she could help and support the community as a member of the Newhaven Town Council in East Sussex.
Mental health is fundamental to Cllr Pinky McLean, as she knows many people that struggle and who feel isolated and alone. To support residents mental health, Cllr Pinky-McLean created a free support group, which she finances herself by renting a room at the local community centre. The group meets weekly and, Cllr Pinky-McLean provides free tea and coffee, biscuits and a safe space. This service has become even more vital to the community since the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cllr Pinky-McLean is proud of being active on social media and interacting with residents. It's a fantastic way of keeping up with local events and understanding local people's feelings. Residents appreciate being listened too. Cllr Pinky-McLean tried to help people in any way that she can including directing people where they can access other resources, support or advice.
Cllr Eartha Pond, Queen’s Park Community Council
Cllr Eartha Pond is the vice-chair of London's first community council, Queen’s Park Community Council. She became a councillor as she wanted a voice in what is happening in her community, rather than being reactive to other layers of government or the community. Cllr Pond has always been invested in young people in her community and, through the council, was able to financially support a role within the youth club that otherwise would have been cut due to lack of government funding.
Cllr Pond was shortlisted for NALC's Star Council Awards Councillor of the Year in 2019 for her work in contributing to community life through her positions as a teacher and trustee, providing over 30 opportunities for pupils to participate in physical activity each week and acting as a mentor to young people and staff.
Cllr Pond’s specialist projects came about as a suggestion from a young person in her constituency. Alongside the council, Cllr Pond implemented a project to ensure that main streets are closed at key moments of the day. Hence, children and young people in the community have a safe place to play sports and socialise whilst remaining socially distanced. Open spaces have become even more precious during COVID-19.
Cllr Nukey Proctor, Keresley Parish Council
Cllr Proctor got involved with Keresley Parish Council in the West Midlands, as she wanted to impact the people and places around her. Cllr Proctor is incredibly proud to be the first black parish councillor for Keresley. Improving representation in politics is something she is incredibly passionate about. She wants to encourage people from a wider variety of backgrounds to get involved in politics at all levels.
One of the council's current specialist projects is looking at acquiring a local community asset that has fallen into neglect called Jubilee Woods. Before Cllr Proctor was co-opted, the parish council had been financing a group of local conservationists to maintain the wood and keep it accessible for local people. Throughout 2021, Keresley Parish Council would like to implement a broader conservation project that restores the wood, enhances biodiversity, and creates a local community space that residents are proud of and want to explore.
The pandemic has exposed how important accessible green spaces are to mental health and wellbeing to provide the ability to stay physically healthy and to provide a legacy for future generations. It's for these reasons that the council is committed to seeing this project moved forward.
Cllr Kai Taylor, Prescot Town Council
Cllr Taylor became interested in local politics in 2016 at the age of 18, had strong concerns regarding the suitability of proposed housing developments in his area. Residents felt as though they were not being listened to by their elected members. Cllr Taylor was also concerned that local services were not supporting vulnerable members of the community.
Cllr Taylor became involved in Prescot Town Council, Merseyside, in 2017 when he noticed a by-election to fill a vacant seat. He has always viewed local (parish and town) councils as a real force for good within the community. As with the right direction from elected members, local councils can provide a large amount of support to the communities which they serve.
Cllr Taylor has been involved in several projects since joining the council in May 2017, from supporting the extensive annual events program to working on a school uniform recycling project to stopping the principal authority from building on a local park. During COVID-19, the Prescot Town Council adapted quickly to adapt the day-to-day function to support the town as a community hub. Within days of the lockdown announcement, a food support network was up and running as councillors served as volunteer delivery drivers.
Cllr Dan Thomas, Much Wenlock Town Council
Cllr Daniel Thomas became a councillor for Much Wenlock Town Council in Shropshire to give back to his community, who had supported him to build an affordable home when so many of his friends had to leave due to expensive house prices. Cllr Thomas wanted to provide a young person's perspective to his town council, which led him to win and become NALC's Star Council Awards Young Councillor of the Year in 2019.
Cllr Thomas' specialist project played a big part in wellbeing in the town, as the council put in a tarmac path for the disabled and elderly to access local green spaces. The new approach has benefitted all of the community, from pushchairs to bikes users. Cllr Thomas became chair of the committee and secured extra funding for the project to be viable.
Apart from ensuring that his local green spaces are accessible to all, one of Cllr Thomas' biggest contributions to the council has been showing people in his community that you can be any age to join the council and make a difference. All you need is a passion and love for your town and its people.
Cllr Gareth Williams, Fownhope Parish Council
Cllr Gareth Williams was born at Caplor and has lived and worked in the community ever since. In his upbringing, it was bred into him that one helps their community and society. To this end, Cllr Williams is involved in multiple groups and organisations nationally and locally connected to sustainable communities and climate change. He has served on Fownhope Parish Council in Herefordshire for 17 years as a member and chairman for three years and previously vice-chair.
In Fownhope, Cllr Williams set up and is the chairman of the Environment Working group - a parish council group. The group has completed many projects and declared a climate emergency in 2019. Fownhope was one of the first in the county and, in doing so, went to great length to write what this meant and publish a declaration. They have further worked on a written plan and organised community planting of over 7,000 trees’ amongst other things. Cllr Williams has been working with Hereford Green Network to get £26,000 worth of funding from MCS charitable foundation for a community engagement platform that will be trialled in Herefordshire.
Cllr Max Woodvine, Saddleworth Parish Council
Cllr Max Woodvine became a councillor at just 19 years old. His passion for Saddleworth in Lancashire urged him to look to his parish council to make a change for the better for his community. Since being elected, Cllr Woodvine has brought forward many proposals and special projects, such as a tree-planting initiative within the community to tackle air pollution, climate change and flooding. The council has also signed the Tree Charter, a joint project between NALC and The Woodland Trust, to establish the relationship between people and trees.
In addition to the Tree Charter project, Cllr Woodvine has committed the council to a comprehensive review of its finances to reassure residents that the precept is wisely spent. Cllr Woodvine is passionate about his community and is championing to protect and preserve local histories, such as maintaining BT boxes, gas lamps and West Riding milestones.
Although COVID-19 has stalled the production of many projects, Cllr Woodvine's most outstanding contribution recently has been his commitment to understanding council finances and ensuring that council-owned buildings are put to the best practical use in the community.