Loads of people ask me who can be a Councillor and how do they go about it. Below are some common Questions I've been asked.
Q. Am I eligible to stand for Council?
A. You must be a 18 years of age or more (there is no maximum), UK, EU or Commonwealth citizen and either live, work or in some cases own property in the local authority area where you want to stand.
Q. How much time does it take up?
A. As with everything else that depends upon how much time you want to give it. The legal minimum is one meeting every six months, if you don't attend then you loose your seat. The maximum is every waking hour! New Councillors often try to do far too much. Constituency work should be a few hours a week, committee work then depends on which committees you sit on, the more committees the more hours. Six to ten hours a week, sometimes in the evenings, but often during the working day is typical. By the time I've read all the papers, attended meetings and committees and sorted out ward matters I usually do about 15 hours a week in total. Sometimes less but often more.
Q. Do I get paid?
A. No. BUT you do get an allowance and expenses. These vary from Council to Council and the work you do. All Councillors get a basic allowance (typically £5,000 a year) but cabinet members and committee chairmen get more. Councillors on £15,000 to £20,000 a year are not uncommon and of course an Elected Mayor is on much, much more than that. Allowances are subject to tax.
Q. I work in local Government. Can I stand?
A. You cannot be an elected member of a local authority where you work. BUT if you live in one local authority area but work in a different area then you can stand for the area where you live unless you are in a post that is bared from political involvement.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. It costs nothing to stand for local Council. There is no deposit like there is for Parliamentary seats. Where you will incur costs are those associated with the campaign, for example leaflet printing, copying, stamps etc. BUT how much you spend on this is mainly up to you. Typical around £100 will be enough.
Q. Is there a maximum I can spend?
A. Yes. Different elections have different amounts made up of a lump sum plus so much per elector on the electoral register. Typically £500 to £600 will be the maximum amount you can spend.
Q. How do I get on the ballot paper?
A. You must submit a Nominations paper signed by a proposer and a seconder plus eight others (called assenters) who are on the electoral register for the ward you wish to contest.
Q. Where do I get a Nomination Paper?
A. Nomination Papers are issued by the local Council elections office. You should contact them as soon as you decide to stand so that they can prepare the Nomination pack (includes a copy of the electoral register, a candidates guide and a statement of the maximum you can spend in the campaign in that ward). Nominations will open late March and remain open for about a week. The nomination period varies slightly from Local authority to local authority.
Q. How do I get to be a UKIP Candidate?
A. In order to be a UKIP Candidate you must submit with your Nomination Paper a Certificate from the Party authorising you to be a Party Candidate. These certificates are issued by Party Deputy Nominating Officers, usually the Branch Chairman or Regional Organiser.
Q. Do I need an Agent?
A. The agent is responsible for all spending and legal aspects of the campaign. Such as completing a declaration of expenses (usually 35 days after polling day) and ensuring all campaign items have the imprint on them. Most local election candidates are their own agent although some Branches will have someone as the Branch Agent who acts as Agent for all the candidates from that Branch.
Q. What's an “Imprint?”
A. All election material must show the name and address of the publisher/promoter (usually the Candidate or the Agent) and the name and address of the printer. This is a legal requirement.
Q. Is there any Training available?
A. Most regions run Candidate training days. Contact your Regional Office for details.
Q. How do I campaign?
A. There are many ways of campaigning. Usually candidates produce a leaflet and distribute it door to door. Some Candidates do multiple leaflets but of course that costs more money.
Q. What about Door to Door Canvassing?
A. This is the best way to campaign but very time consuming. A door to door canvas campaign typically starts a year before the election.
Q. Can I put adverts in the press or posters on lamp posts?
A. Press Adverts are OK, but don’t exceed your maximum spending limit. Posters on lamp posts are allowed by some local authorities and not by others. You local Council elections office will tell you the local rules
Q. Are Postal votes important?
A. Typically 80% of registered postal voters will vote so reaching them is important. Postal voting starts up to 2 weeks before polling day so the date postal voting starts is a key one in your campaign plan.
Q. You mentioned a Campaign Plan. What’s that?
A. Getting elected is like a military operation. You need a plan. There are key dates you need to know (such as when Nomination Packs are available for collection, when completed Nomination Papers must be submitted, postal voting starts, etc) and key events that you need to attend (for example local resident association may ask all the candidates to address them). These items for a basic campaign plan. You should then plan leaflet delivery, door to door canvassing, meet the people opportunities (pension day at the local post office, Market day in the High Street, etc). All these activities need to be planned and of course fit in around your day job. If you fail to plan then you plan to fail.
Q. After I’m elected then what?
A. You local Authority should have an induction program for new councillors. However, you should contact UKIP immediately after your election so that UKIP can offer you on-going support
Q. If I don’t get elected when should I start my next campaign?
A. Immediately. The best time to campaign is actually when there is no election due. People appreciate that you are not only around when your are chasing their vote. Also during a campaign all the parties are out so you are just one voice amongst many.
Q. I have loads more questions. Who should I contact?
A. Steve Allison, he is a UKIP Councillor on Hartlepool Borough Council.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org drop him a line anytime.