Standing as a Councillor
Councillors are elected to the local council to represent the residents in the ward and their local community. They’re expected to be active in their local community and act as the voice of their constituents, raising any local concerns within the Council on a range of matters related to the work of the Council. It’s time consuming but rewarding and you can make a real difference to the lives of the people in your community. Find out more about what being a Labour councillor entails, and how to stand for the role.
Thinking of standing?
With the Tory Government’s increasing cuts to local government, being a councillor is one of the toughest – and most important – jobs in politics today. Despite difficult circumstances, Labour councillors work to prioritise communities and help people in need. There is no doubt of the scale of the challenge ahead, but the power of politics to change people’s lives remains undiminished and it is therefore important that we work together.
The party needs people of vision, integrity, ambition and commitment to help deliver strong leadership and quality public services. As a Labour Party Councillor representing your community, you will have an important and significant job in delivering local services that play a vital role in sustaining and enhancing the quality of all our lives, creating cleaner, greener and safer communities, raising standards in education, promoting social inclusion and supporting people.
“Being a councillor is the greatest privilege. It’s a really practical way of being a champion for the Labour Party at a local level, showing residents and communities what a difference having Labour representatives can make.CLLR HELEN HOLLAND, BRISTOL
Getting alongside community campaigns, fighting for voluntary groups, linking like-minded people to achieve shared aims – what could be more rewarding than that?”
You can download the full Becoming a Labour Councillor booklet for more information.
What does a councillor do?
The role of a councillor is a broad and varied one. We hope to give you a clear overview of the sorts of things you are likely to have to do as a councillor, the impact you can have, and key duties you’ll be expected to to undertake in your role.
One of the most important aspects of any councillor’s job is standing up for local residents. Councillors will be expected to host weekly surgeries to ensure that you are hearing concerns from your constitutents and taking action on problems in the area. Another key aspect of standing up for local residents will be dealing with casework and acting as an advocate for residents. These issues will range from those concerning housing benefits to anti-social behaviour in the area.
In the council chamber, your work will focus on a number of different aspects, including ensuring quality public services are provided by the council, participating in community planning and seeking improvements for residents around a number of important areas. These objectives can be achieved through your work on scrutiny panels, helping create council policy and providing leadership and engaging with the community.
Councillors will work with community groups and local residents to ensure that the Council delivers improvement and change in the local area. Community groups are part of the fabric of the area and it is important that councillors maintain a good working relationship with them.
- To attend full council, the council executive and/or overview and scrutiny committee(s) and other committee meetings as necessary
- To monitor performance against targets in all areas of the council activity
- To engage with local residents to consult them, feedback on council activity, take up their concerns as appropriate and be their voice in the council
- To contribute effectively to the work of the Council, in line with Labour group policy as appropriate
- To help to decide service priorities and participate in agreeing and setting a budget, in line with Labour group policy
- To develop links with all parts of the community e.g. visiting schools, meeting local businesses, attending tenants’ meetings, visiting local projects and community groups
- To conduct regular walkabouts in the ward to identify issues of concern and tackle nuisance e.g. fly-tipping, graffiti, abandoned cars
- To promote and represent the Council in the local community and on community bodies (e.g. school governing bodies, residents associations)
- To conduct regular surgeries to allow constituents to raise issues of importance or personal concern with their elected representatives
- To take action on issues raised by constituents and lobby for resources for the ward within the constraints of the group’s overall priorities and financial strategy
for the Council
- To attend local community events on a regular basis
- To participate actively in Labour group meetings and contribute to effective decision-making
- To assist in the formulation of the Labour group’s strategies and policies, within a framework of national Labour Party policy
- To be a part of the Labour team working to deliver Labour’s policies locally
- To support regular campaign and communications in the local community, raising the profile of Labour and its work for local residents
- To be an ambassador for the Labour Party
- To attend branch meetings and report and consult on all council activity undertaken
- To campaign with branch members on local issues
- To support policy discussion e.g. as part of the Party’s policy making process
- To recruit new members and mobilise existing ones into action
- To build a healthy party locally
What does it take to be a councillor?
To be an effective councillor you must be hard working, committed and passionate about improving the area you live in. Councillors must balance the needs and interests of residents and values of the Labour Party, as well as the council.
Being a Labour councillor is an extremely rewarding experience but it does also demand your time. It is important that you are able to balance your council and party commitments with your personal life and professional work. Make sure you consult with family and friends before making the decision to stand as a councillor.
The skills to stand
Below is a person specification which shows the skills you will need to be an effective Labour councillor. How do you measure up against the criteria?
Engages enthusiastically and empathetically with the community in order to learn, understand and act upon issues of local concern. Mediates fairly and constructively, encouraging trust by representing all sections of the community.
Understands and executes judicial role by following protocol, evaluating arguments and making decisions that balance public needs and local policy. Ensures progress by monitoring and intervening where necessary.
Acts as a critical friend to the council by seeking opportunities for scrutiny and providing constructive feedback. Analyses information quickly and presents arguments in a concise, meaningful and easily accessible way.
Listens sensitively, uses appropriate language and checks for understanding. Communicates regularly with individuals and groups in the community, speaks clearly and confidently in public, and makes sure that people are informed.
Builds positive relationships by making others feel valued, trusted and included and by working collaboratively to achieve goals. Maintains calm and focus, recognises when to delegate or provide support and is able to take a long-term view in developing partnerships.
Acts ethically, consistently and with integrity when communicating values or representing group views in decisions and actions. Effectively works across group boundaries without compromising values or ethics.
The process of applying to be a councillor
We have developed a robust process to select the very best candidates to stand for Labour. The process exists to test your interest in and knowledge of local government, the level of your commitment to and track record in the Labour Party and your involvement in the local community. Over the course of the selection process, you will need to complete a detailed nomination form and attend an interview at an assessment centre.
This section takes you step by step from being an interested member, to being selected as a candidate for the Labour Party. It’s a lot to take in but don’t worry, it’s not as intimidating as it sounds and we offer a great deal of support along the way.
You must first fill out a form covering personal information, your experience and knowledge of local government, your track record in the party and community, and the reasons you would like to be a Labour councillor. The Local Campaign Forum will consider your form and check whether you are eligible to stand and if so, will arrange for you to be interviewed. Forms are available by contacting your LCF secretary or CLP secretary.
Assessment Centre Interview and Exercise
There follows an assessment centre interview and exercise. The questions are set nationally and will seek to expand on the information you have given in the nomination form. The exercise is designed to test a nominee’s problem-solving skills, rather than a detailed knowledge of local government.
The assessment team writes up the results of the interview and makes a recommendation to the Local Campaign Forum as to whether the nominee should be included on the panel of candidates to select from. Reasons must be given. This report is shared with the nominee, who has a right to appeal to the Regional Board within fourteen days of receipt.
Local Campaign Forum
The Local Campaign Forum receives the recommendations of the assessment centre and makes the final decision on the composition of the panel of candidates.
Successful members of the panel of candidates are invited to provide a summary for distribution to the branches prior to short-listing and selection. A code of conduct, (appendix), must be observed during all of the stages of the selection procedures.
Make sure to speak to your Local Campaign Forum or Constituency Labour Party secretary to find out when the selection process will begin in your area.
The ward party draws up the short list. Once approved for the panel of candidates, you will be asked to write a short biography, which will be circulated to all wards selecting candidates.
The branch may be faced with the names and details of a large number of people, and will only be able to include a few names on the short list. So you need to get noticed, get known and convince members why you should be their candidate!
You need to ensure that members in the branch know you are interested, otherwise nobody will nominate you. If you have named their ward specifically on your form, this may help. However, ask yourself, does anybody in the ward know you or know about you? If so, it is wise to make contact before the meeting and see if they will nominate you to the short list. If not, see what you can do to make contacts in the ward so somebody will nominate you. The guidance from the NEC explains the rules governing this, but candidates are entitled to a copy of the membership list once they have been shortlisted.
Assessment Centre Interview
If you are shortlisted, you will then be called to a selection meeting in the ward and asked to make a speech and answer questions. You should be told in advance how much time is allowed for your speech and how much time there will be for you to take questions. Ensure that you prepare properly. Find out as much as you can about the ward and its local members. Think about the key issues in the ward. Speak to any existing Labour councillors for the ward, if appropriate, and to local members, if you haven’t done so already.
The selection meeting, like a job interview, is an important opportunity for you to put your case as to why you should be selected, so it is important to make a good impression. Look smart, appear confident and be committed and enthusiastic. It is vital that you arrive on time for the meeting – if you are late you may be disqualified.
Once all candidates have gone through the selection meeting assessment process, you will be asked to wait in a side room while a discussion will be had between the members present at the meeting. The members will discuss all the candidates and vote on who they would like to be the candidate.
If you are selected
If you win the selection, you may be asked to say a few words. Apart from thanking the ward for selecting you and commiserating with those who have not been selected, you may want to give a positive start to your election campaign by saying a few words about looking forward to the campaign and working hard for the ward.
If you are not selected
If you are not selected by your first choice ward, you may still have a chance at another ward. If you are on the short list for other wards, try to talk to members in the first ward to find out why they did not select you. There may be lessons you can learn to develop your speech and improve your presentation skills and questions to think about that you had not prepared for initially or may have answered differently.
If you are not successful in this round of selections, make sure you ask for feedback from the Interview and Assessment team, LCF officers and the wards so that you can prepare for the next round. Take up training opportunities and participate in campaigning and community events. Don’t give up!