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Be a Councillor webinar for the public

The Local Government Association is hosting a webinar from 10am to 11:30am on 7 June for members of the public, specifically those with an interest in serving the community, on becoming a councillor.

The event is aimed at the general public to help explain what councils and councillors do and to explore the steps involved in becoming a councillor, including what support is available.

The webinar, funded by the government, will cover what councils and councillors do, what an individual will need to do to take their first steps and all about the role and support they can expect. An experienced panel of councillor speakers will share their journeys in local government and offer practical advice for those looking to represent their community.

Sign up for the Be a Councillor webinar.

Passionate about where you live and want the best for your area?
Want to do something worthwhile and rewarding to help your community?
Do you want to be the voice of your community by shaping and directing local services?
People like you are councillors ….make a difference for Torbay!

Councillors are ordinary people doing an extraordinary job. The role is both fulfilling and demanding.  The challenges facing the Council at this time are especially acute and more than ever, effective community leadership is required.

The issues are big and serious as Council decisions often impact upon every citizen and for some this could literally be the difference between life and death. 70% of our budget is spent on Social Care (Adults and Children’s) and Public Health.

Torbay Council is an Award Winning Council but to be candid, the statistics also confirm that we have far too many deprived wards, that our economy is weak and that sometimes we struggle to be decisive and dynamic.

Councillors with vision and team building skills will play a key role.  Looking ahead, it’s going to be hard work for all our elected members - so it’s a commitment not to be entered into lightly.

Delivering change can be challenging at the best of times and yet without significant change, the quality of life for most of our residents will decline. By becoming a councillor you will be making decisions that ensure we are doing our very best to meet the current and future needs of the people of Torbay.  You will be the voice of your whole community and help shape the delivery of local services.

Inevitably there will be insufficient resources. The Council presently needs to make further savings exceeding 10% of the revenue budget over the next three years, on top of the 40% already delivered to date.

As ambassadors for the region, many councillors will be invited to help shape and influence national policies. Partnership working with others, both within the Borough and sub region is essential.

From a senior officer perspective it is essential that our councillors are positively engaged with their communities and able to represent all sectors, ages and genders. Key attributes include: the ability to listen, to process information (which can be very complicated and occasionally contradictory), to have an up to date awareness of current trends in National policy and an ability to motivate a diverse workforce which is both depleted and under considerable pressure.

The role is not ‘operational’, there is casework of course but the overwhelming need presently relates to developing strategy and repositioning the local authority and services in light of Government policy, which has substantially reduced local government resources whilst cascading additional duties.  Such strategies need to be informed by local engagement. Decisions need to be effectively communicated at the grass roots especially.

It is not necessary for all councillors to be a great orator but it is important that you are able to express your opinions and enter into dialogue at all levels. Councillors with specialist skills are very likely to be invited to participate in activities which are complementary e.g. health, finance, governance, audit and scrutiny.

Torbay Council is launching a campaign to attract residents to come forward and represent their local communities and be part of a dedicated team providing key services for the Bay.

Some frequently asked questions have been answered below and the Candidate Guide also provides further information

Essential Guide for Candidates
Make a difference for Torbay!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • ‘I wanted to do something to influence change where I live for the better.’
  • ‘I wanted to get more involved in local issues and help reinvigorate a sense of community.’
  • ‘I wanted to reflect the views of my community as they were being ignored.’

Torbay Council and Brixham Town Council provide local services to residents and visitors to Torbay.
Torbay is split into wards and one, two or three councillors are elected to represent each ward.
As a councillor you will represent everyone in your ward – not just those that voted for you - and to serve the council as a whole. You will be a:

  • Representative, acting as a source of information or point of access to council services.
  • Community leader, developing links with all parts of the community and supporting local partnerships/organisations to campaign on local issues.
  • Policy maker, attending meetings to discuss and approve council budget and policy.
  • Scrutineer, you may become involved to act as Torbay Council’s ‘watchdog’ to review/improve services for local people and investigate issues of local concern

You are able to be a councillor if you:

  • Are 18 years of age or over;
  • Are British, or if you are a citizen of a member country of the European Union or Commonwealth;

And have at least one of the following:

  • Are registered to vote with Torbay Council (and within Brixham to stand for Brixham Town Council); or
  • Lived (or worked) in Torbay for one year (or within Brixham to stand for Brixham Town Council); or
  • Occupied or resided in, as owner or tenant, any land or premises in Torbay for one year (or within 4.8 km of Brixham for Brixham Town Council).

A criminal records check will be carried out on you if you are elected and subsequently appointed a lead member for Children or Adults.
You may not be a councillor if you:

  • work for Torbay Council or Brixham Town Council or your job is a politically restricted post;
  • have received a prison sentence or suspended sentence of three months or more within five years of the election; or
  • have been disqualified under any legislation relating to any corrupt or illegal practices or are bankrupt.

More detailed information on how to stand for election is available from the Electoral Commission

You do not need any formal qualifications or experience to become a councillor. The main requirement is that you want to be involved and help represent the interests of your local area. You may also have special skills or business expertise that you feel you could contribute.

For example, someone that works in a local café or restaurant is likely to spend a great deal of time talking to local residents and it is likely local issues (both political or topical) are going to be discussed – this demonstrates good communication skills, awareness of the local area and builds open and transparent relationships with the public.

Councillors should represent the whole community so it is important people from all backgrounds are elected

How much time you put in as a councillor is largely up to you and any additional commitments you choose to take on, such as being the Chairperson of a Committee. 

There a number of meetings which you will have to attend and members of the public will want to discuss matters with you at the weekends or evenings on the telephone or in person. The amount of time you need to set aside to carry out your councillor role can range from between 5 to 20 hours per week. It depends on how much you want to get involved.  Once elected you can be a councillor for a maximum of four years when the elections are held again.

No.  You can choose to stand for election as an independent candidate or as a group/party political candidate.

Councillors receive an allowance, plus travel and expenses.  You can also claim carer’s allowance if you have children and/or dependents who require care whilst you are at meetings. You will also be paid extra allowances if you have additional responsibilities such as the Chairperson of a committee.  

Please note that the allowances you receive may affect any financial assistance you receive and are taxable - you should contact the agency that provides the financial assistance to find out how you may be affected.

Full details of the Council’s Allowances Scheme is available below.

Members Allowance Scheme
Details of the scheme for payment of allowances to members

Council staff will provide you with information and advice. A carefully planned induction programme will start immediately after the election so you are well prepared to start in your new role if you are successfully elected. It is a requirement councillors receive appropriate training before they can become a member of certain committees, for example you must have undertaken training on licensing matters if you want to sit on the Licensing Committee. 

Further training and development will be available throughout your time as a councillor to help you develop your skills.

The Governance Support Team is a council department and is on hand to provide support with councillors’ queries, expenses etc. You will also be set up with an email address and provided with help to access to access the Council's IT network from home.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 requires your employer to allow you a reasonable amount of time off for your work as a councillor. You may need to discuss this and agree the details with your employer. 

Many employers recognise that the skills people develop as councillors are also very useful in the workplace. Skills you will develop as a councillor include time management, chairing a meeting, updates on national policies (such General Data Protection Regulations), IT training, Corporate Parenting and analyzing corporate budgets.

The next elections for Torbay and Brixham Town councillors will be held on 4 May 2023.

This may seem a long time away, but if you are interested now is a really good time to get started and find out more.

Whether you stand for a political party or as an independent there are precise rules governing elections that will need your attention. For more information visit the Standing for Election page.

Successful candidates will be expected to participate in a number of training events in the first three months following the election.   

Induction outline programme
Member Induction Programme 2019 and Establishing New Council Priorities

You can also view the calendar of meetings which lists all of the public meetings scheduled for the next four years.