URPC Councillor Tool Box

Documents for Councillors and Parishioners alike:

Parish Council Toolkit
Good Councillors Guide 2017
Local Government Transparency Code 2015
Link the Government 1972 Act.

Guidelines for the press and public using multi-media at Public Meetings.
Full document is here.

Guidelines on Openness and Transparency Interest:
Openness And Transparency On Personal Interests Guide – .gov.uk

Key Points

  • A councillor’s normal term of office is four years
  • Any person over 18 who is a citizen of the UK, the EU or the Commonwealth can be a councillor if they are an elector in, work in, live in or live within three miles of the area of the local council, unless they are disqualified.
  • The first business of the annual meeting of a local council is the election of its Chairman.
  • Most councils appoint a Vice-Chairman but this is optional.
  • The normal term of office for the Chairman and Vice-Charman of a local council is 1 year.
  • A councillor is the holder of a public office, not a volunteer.
  • A councillor can receive expenses for his role.
  • A councillor has no authority to make decisions about council business on is own.
  • The main job of a councillor is to participate in the collective decision-making processes of the council.
  • A council may arrange insurance cover to indemnify its councillors against liability resulting from them being representatives of the council.
  • A councillors financial and certain other interests in council business must be transparent.
  • A councillor is subject to obligations set out in the code of conduct adopted by the council.
  • Information about councillors is available in the council’s publication scheme.

Information about councillors

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 requires a local council to have a publication scheme, which makes available to the public certain information about the council. One category of information available via a council’s publication scheme concerns who makes up the council and what they do? Councillors names, roles within the council (e.g. Chairman or Vice-Chairman or Chairman of a Committee). And, where used, contact details should be available to the public via council’s publication scheme.

Councillors’ conduct and interests

A councillor is subject to statutory rules about how he conducts himself as a representative of his council. He is also subject to statutory rules which require him to be transparent about the existence of certain financial and personal interests. There are seven principles which apply to the standards of conduct of those in public life which, for example, include members of Parliament, Ministers, and councillors of all local authorities.

The seven principles, which were established by the Committee on Standards in Public life, are

  • Selflessness – you should act in the public interest
  • Integrity – you should not put yourself under any obligations to others, allow them improperly to influence you or seek bene t for yourself, family, friends or close associates
  • Objectivity – you should act impartially, fairly and on merit
  • Accountability – you should be prepared to submit to public scrutiny necessary to ensure accountability
  • Openness – you should be open and transparent in your actions and decisions unless there are clear and lawful reasons for non-disclosure
  • Honesty – you should always be truthful
  • Leadership – as a councillor, you should promote, support and exhibit high standards of conduct and be willing to challenge poor behaviour.

The seven principles are the origins of the legislation in England and Wales that established the standards of behaviour expected of a councillor as a representative of is local council, require the disclosure of certain financial or personal interests, and restrict his participation in the discussion and voting at a meeting that is considering a matter in which he holds a financial interest.

In England, a local council has a statutory duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by its councillors when they are representing office. In discharging this duty, a council must have a code of conduct that confirms the obligations of councillors when they are representing council. A council’s code of conduct must be consistent with the seven principles above. A council’s code of conduct may, for example, require its councillors:

  • To treat others with respect,
  • Not to bully or behave intimidatory manner,
  • Not seek or improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on others,
  • To use the resources of the Council in accordance with its requirements; and
  • Not to disclose confidential information.

A complaint that a councillor has not observed the code of conduct of his local council must be submitted to the district or unitary (including London Borough) council that covers the local council area. The district or unitary council will notify the complainant of its procedures for handling the complaint. If the district or unitary council decides that the councillor has failed to comply with the council’s code of conduct, it will notify the councillor and the local council of its decision. If the district or unitary council decides that the council has failed to comply with his local council’s code of conduct it can take no direct action against the councillor. Responsibility, for deciding what action to take against the councillor, if any rests with the local council. It may, for example, decide to censure the councillor, remove as a representative on an external body or request the councillor to attend training or apologise. A local council cannot suspend or disqualify a councillor from office.