28th February 2024

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Parish Elections - 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.

You can become a councillor in a few different ways - from an ordinary four yearly all out election, from a by-election that occurs in the four year term or by co-option - this is where a council is permitted to select a new councillor(s) itself.


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.


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:

  1. Check for elections in your area by emailing your elections officer
  2. Submit your nomination to the returning officer — find out more about the process.
  3. Wait for your nomination to be accepted
  4. Your nomination is made public by the principal authority
  5. Start your elections campaign
  6. Polling day.

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?

  1. Check with their electoral returning officer if there is a vacancy near you
  2. Put yourself forward for co-option
  3. The council may ask you for a CV or invite you for an interview
  4. The council will choose their co-opted councillor

Casual vacancy

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 some resources for your local council to use to help residents stand for election. See below:

Editable elections flyer — easy-to-read information about local elections

Editable A4 posters and A3 posters — quick and precise way to publicise the local elections

Editable press release — a template to help publicise local elections through the local media in your area

Information sheet for prospective candidates — all the information you need to know about local councils and the role of councillors

Social media assets — includes images and suggested posts for social media channels.

FAQs — frequently asked questions about local elections

Last updated: Fri, 09 Feb 2024 15:24