Becoming a county councillor | Oxfordshire County Council

Becoming a county councillor

What being a councillor involves and how you can become one.

What is a councillor?

A councillor is someone who is elected by local people to represent them on a local council. In Oxfordshire you can be elected to a parish or town council, a district council and the county council. County councillors are elected for a four year term. It is a role that many of our current elected members have described as both enjoyable and demanding. Councillors need to be willing to engage with their local communities and reflect views in an increasingly challenging environment.

What do councillors do?

Councillors are there to:

  • collectively be the ultimate policy-makers for the council, making major decisions on the services the council provides, setting the budget and overseeing how services are run;
  • represent the interests of people in their division (the area they are elected to represent) collectively, as well as dealing with individual concerns when they arise;
  • respond to electors enquiries and concerns in a fair and impartial manner;
  • contribute to and participate in the good governance of the council;
  • take part in locality meetings and parish council meetings for their electoral division,
  • encourage their constituents to participate and become involved in the decision making process;
  • maintain personal high standards of conduct and ethics in compliance with the Members Code of Conduct;

The county council’s formal meetings are all held during working hours. Full Council meets seven times a year and each meeting lasts a day. Briefing sessions are often scheduled to be held at the end of a Full Council meeting, particularly where the subject matter is one of interest to all members of council.

From May 2017, Full Council will be starting at 10.30am.

Cabinet

The council’s Cabinet carry out functions and make key decisions which are not the responsibility of any other part of the council, either by law or under the Constitution.  The Cabinet is made up of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council, and currently seven other members of council.  They meet on a monthly basis, except in August when the Council is in recess.

Overview and Scrutiny committees

The council have two Scrutiny Committees and a joint health overview and scrutiny committee.  These each meet four times a year and broadly, help to improve service provision, inform policy and ensure that value for money is achieved.  Members of Cabinet are not eligible to sit on a scrutiny committee and vice versa.

Regulatory and Other Committees

The Council appoint four regulatory committees that meet at varying intervals throughout the year, and may also arrange to meet at additional times if necessary.

Further information relating to the Council’s committees, are available on the Meetings and Decisions pages.

Each kind of council (county, district, town and parish) provides a different set of services to its local area.

County Councils

Oxfordshire County Council is responsible for:

  • services for children, young people and families
  • some schools (those that have not converted to academy status)
  • social care
  • community services such as adult learning, museums and libraries
  • roads and traffic
  • fire and rescue
  • trading standards
  • waste disposal
  • the commissioning and scrutiny of health services.

The business of the county council can have a greater impact on people, focusing skills on influencing the community and social infrastructure of the area and providing a result for constituents.

District Councils

Oxfordshire comprises five district authorities:

District councils deal with issues local to their areas including:

  • Council tax collection
  • Refuse and recycling collections
  • Housing
  • Licensing applications
  • Electoral registration
  • Local planning applications

Further information can be found on our district council's page.

Parish and Town Councils

By attending meetings of the parish or town councils within their divisions, councillors act as a means of channelling information, and develop an awareness of local non-political activities, as well as dealing with important but immediate issues including:

  • grass-cutting
  • bus shelters
  • cemeteries and
  • litter

Further information on parish and town councils can be found at the website for the Oxfordshire Association of Local Councils.

Locality meetings

The locality meetings are held by the county council for each of the five different areas of the county. These are not public meetings, but provide members with an opportunity to discuss local issues as they start to emerge. They also allow members to network and strengthen working relationships with key council officers.

Councillors also spend time getting to know other organisations and services in their area and may be appointed by their council as representatives to some of these local organisations.

You can learn more about what the county council and other councils do on our government in Oxfordshire pages.

How much time does it take up?

It depends on how much time, effort and commitment each individual councillor is able to give to the role. However, most elected members are likely to give the role a minimum of one day per week, although other councillors spend considerably more time than this, especially if they have taken on a leading Cabinet role.

Will I get paid?

You will not get a salary but all Oxfordshire County Councillors are entitled to:

  • a basic allowance, which is currently £10,100 per year,   
  • travelling and subsistence expenses, and
  • a dependant carers allowance (for costs incurred for childcare and the care of other dependent relatives), which occur as a result of carrying out duties as a councillor.

Councillors with special responsibilities (such as members of the council's cabinet and chairmen of committees) will receive additional allowances.

Further details of allowances payable can be found on our allowances page, and Part 10 of the Council’s Constitution.

We also provide other kinds of support such as an initial induction programme with on-going training and access to a councillors' resource centre.

Do I get time off work?

This depends largely on your employer, but anyone considering whether or not to stand as a councillor should bear in mind that there is no statutory right to paid time off work to attend council meetings.

Some employers are good at encouraging their employees to be councillors and do allow time off within reason.

Anyone considering standing for election as a councillor should always discuss this issue with their employer before standing.

Although Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, provides that time off may be allowed for certain, but not all, public duties, this is largely at the discretion of individual employers.

Do I have to be political?

No. You do not have to be identified with a political party, although most councillors are.

The county council is currently represented by councillors from the Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.  There are also independent councillors serving on the council.

There is advice available nationally from the Local Government Association's Independent Group for anyone considering standing as an independent.

How do I become a councillor?

To become a councillor, you must stand for, and win, an election in one of the county's electoral divisions (there are currently 61 electoral divisions, which are represented by 63 members).

The Oxfordshire County Council is elected in its entirety every four years. The last elections for Oxfordshire County Council were held on 2 May 2013. The next elections will be on Thursday 4 May 2017.

Who can stand for election?

If you wish to stand for election you must be:

  • a British citizen, a citizen of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland or of another European Union State
  • 18 or over
  • included on the register of electors for Oxfordshire or be someone who has either lived or worked in the county for the 12 months preceding the election.

You are unable to stand for election as a councillor if:

  • In the last 5 years you have been in prison or on a suspended sentence for 3 months or more
  • You have been declared bankrupt
  • You are an employee of Oxfordshire County Council
  • You have been disqualified

You will need nomination papers. When there is an election, once the formal Notice of Election has been published nomination papers are available from the individual district council's election office for the area in which you wish to stand.

The district council’s elections staff will be able to answer your questions about the nomination process.

You need to be nominated to stand as a candidate at the election by:

  • two electors of the electoral division (as your proposer and seconder)
  • eight other electors (supporting your nomination).

An elector is anyone who is on the register of electors for that division.

More information

Further information on serving your community as a councillor can be found by downloading the Local Government Association’s Be a Councillor Guide and also see:

Last reviewed
25 January 2017
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