Richmond.gov.uk

Becoming a councillor

Councillors are the voice of the community, representing local views and interests. They are at the heart of local decision making, ensuring the Council spends taxpayers’ money wisely.

What’s involved

As a councillor, you would represent the views of local people with a special emphasis on those in your own ward. Your role will also depend on whether you are in the majority party or in the opposition. Most councillors will serve on one of the five decision-making Service Committees.

As well as carrying out ward work and resolving residents’ problems, you may be involved with setting policy, scrutinising service delivery and sitting on bodies such as Planning Committee.

Being a councillor is a commitment by you to improving the local area for residents, visitors and businesses. It is both challenging and very rewarding.

Visit the Be A Councillor website for more details on what the role entails.

You can also view more information on becoming a councillor on the Electoral Commission website.

Time commitment

It can be a challenge to balance Council work with having a job, family and hobbies. Most of the meetings you would attend as a councillor are in the evening.

On average, as a councillor you may spend between 5 to 20 hours a week on ward work alone. You will receive many emails and letters plus phone calls from residents, businesses and council officers. You will also need to read reports and other Committee documents in preparation for meetings.

If you are elected, your term of office will be four years. Councillors elected in by-elections serve until the next full election.

Training and support

On becoming a councillor, you will be given:

  • A reference file containing ward and Council information
  • Information to help you understand and tackle local issues
  • Dedicated online support
  • Access to a training programme and online training resources

Pay and expenses

You will receive an allowance to reimburse time and expenses for Council business. Travel expenses outside the borough for Council duties are also paid.

If you take on an extra role such as Committee Chair, you will receive an additional special responsibility allowance. The amount varies according to the role.

Experience and qualifying criteria

The main requirement is that you care about the local community and want to improve Richmond upon Thames for future generations. You must be willing to learn about the services and workings of the Council. Your knowledge and confidence will grow quickly.

Qualifications

To be able to stand as a candidate at a local government election in England, you must be at least 18 years old, be a British citizen, eligible Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of any member state of the European Union, and meet at least one of the following four qualifications:

  • You are, and will continue to be, registered as a local government elector for the local authority area in which you wish to stand from the day of your nomination onwards
  • You have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the local authority area during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election
  • Your main or only place of work during the 12 months prior to the day of your nomination and the day of election has been in the local authority area.
  • You have lived in the local authority area during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election

Disqualifications

There are certain people who are disqualified from being elected to a local authority in England. You cannot be a candidate if at the time of your nomination and on polling day:

  • You are employed by the local authority or hold a paid office under the authority (including joint boards or committees)
  • You hold a politically restricted post
  • You are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order
  • You are the mayor for a combined authority area that the local authority is a part of
  • You have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three months or more (including a suspended sentence), without the option of a fine, during the five years before polling day
  • You have been disqualified under the Representation of the People Act 1983 (which covers corrupt or illegal electoral practices and offences relating to donations)

A person may also be disqualified from election if they have been disqualified from standing for election to a local authority following a decision of the First-tier Tribunal (formerly the Adjudication Panel for England).

The Electoral Commission has more detailed guidance on who does or does not qualify to be a candidate at a local government election.

If you have a disability

The LGA has launched a guide for disabled people who are considering becoming a councillor, covering key areas of the role. An easy read version is also available.

Both guides have been produced with the help of disabled councillors and form part of a bespoke national campaign by the LGA to encourage disabled people to find out more about becoming a councillor. This campaign is funded by the government and aims to increase the representation of disabled people in local government.

Political party or independent?

If you wish to stand as a political party representative, you must contact and join the local political party in good time ahead of the election. They will be able to advise you on their councillor selection criteria.

If you do not wish to represent a political party, you may stand as an Independent candidate. Read the Electoral Commission's guide for Independent candidates, and contact the Electoral Services Office on 020 8891 7196 or electoral.services@richmond.gov.uk for more information.

Contact

For queries about becoming a councillor:

For queries about the electoral process:

Updated: 13 December 2022

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