Parish Councils and Meetings - Resources
Individuals can become Parish Councillors in one of two ways - they can be Elected or they can be Co-opted.
Parish Council Elections take place every four years, and are administered by the Returning Officer and the Elections Team. If a vacancy arises inbetween the normal cycle of elections, this is known as a 'casual vacancy in the office of Councillor'. Such a vacancy may occur as the result of a resignation, a failure to attend meetings for a period of six months, or the death of a serving Parish Councillor. If a 'casual vacancy' does occur, the Returning Officer (Elections Team) should be informed, and a 'Notice of Vacancy' will be produced for display within the Parish.
If, within fourteen days of the publication of Notice of Vacancy, the Returning Officer receives a written request for an election signed by ten electors of the Parish or for the Ward of the Parish (if divided into wards), an election must be held to fill the vacancy. There is no prescribed form for this written request, and any questions or requests should be directed to the Returning Officer for further advice.
The written request will trigger the election process. The Returning Officer will set a date for Polling Day and the election process will begin, with the publication of a 'Notice of Election', copies of which will be supplied by the Parish Clerk. That notice informs the electors where they may obtain nomination papers and the date by when they should be delivered. It gives the dates by which applications to vote by post or proxy must be made. It also gives the date of the election in the event of a contested election. It is from this point that the Parish Council will start to incur the full costs that will arise from staging an election. Should a request for an election not be received, then the Parish Council are free to co-opt as appropriate, and the Parish Clerk should inform Darlington Borough Council of the details of the Councillor they have co-opted, the date of co-option, and the Members' Interest Form.
Qualifications to be a Councillor
A person is qualified to be elected and to be a Councillor if they are a British, Commonwealth, Irish or European Union citizen and on the relevant day (that is, the day of nomination or election) they are 18 or over. In addition, the person must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- On the relevant day and thereafter they continue to be on the electoral register for the parish, or
- During the whole of the twelve months before that day they have owned or tenanted land or premises in the parish, or
- During the whole of the twelve months before that day their principal or only place of work has been in the parish, or
- During the whole of the twelve months before that day they have resided in the parish or within three miles of it. Except for qualification (1), these qualifications then continue to the full term of office, until the next ordinary elections. Certain people are disqualified from standing, and these include paid officers (including the Clerk) of the Council, bankrupts and those subject to recent sentences of imprisonment.
Useful reference points for Parish Clerks is:
National Association for Local Councils - www.nalc.gov.uk [external link]
Parish Councillors' Declaration of Acceptance of Office and Code of Conduct
Every Councillor, whether elected or co-opted, must within 28 days of election or co-option, make a Declaration of Acceptance of Office before they can act as a Councillor.
The Parish Clerk must forward a copy of the Declaration to the Council’s Monitoring Officer at the Town Hall as soon as possible after the Declaration has been made.
Members of Parish Councils are obliged to sign up to the local government Code of Conduct and are required to observe the requirements contained within it. It is also a requirement for Parish Councillors to complete a 'Register of Interests'. This is a public document that lists their affiliation to, or membership of, other bodies and also any employment or business that they carry out. It will also contain details of any land within the parish boundary in which they have a beneficial interest.