Information about being a Parish Councillor

About Dartington Parish Council.

Dartington Parish Council is an elected body in the first tier of local government. Other higher tiers, for example South Hams District Council or Devon County Council, have legal obligations to deliver services including education, housing, planning and transport. Parish councils have the legal power to take action in some situations, but they have very few duties – things they must do. However, they exist to represent and serve their local communities.

Parish Councils are an important part of the democratic process and play a vital part in representing the interests of their communities and can also influence other decision makers. It is important to have a full complement of councillors.

Dartington Parish Council meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month except August from 7-9pm in the Village Hall. Councillors are expected to attend all meetings and prepare for them by reading the agenda and papers which the Clerk emails in advance. Sometimes there are additional Council meetings, but not often.

Council elections are every four years and so the term of office for Councillors is four years. All Councillors serve until the next scheduled elections.

As long as you are at least 18, a British, Commonwealth or EU citizen (at the moment), on the electoral register and live in the parish or within 3 miles of the boundary, or your main place of work is in the parish or within 3 miles of the boundary, you should be eligible to be a councillor. Local Government  Association information about being a Councillor can be found on this website: https://beacouncillor.co.uk/

The rules say that if a Council doesn’t have enough councillors after an election, the Council is required to co-opt people to any vacancies.

Process for co-opting to Casual Vacancies arising on the Council

Councillors are co-opted at a full meeting of the Parish Council which must have at least 4 councillors present. Candidates should check they meet the eligibility requirements and send the Clerk some information about themselves saying who you are and what you could bring to the Council. Candidates are invited to speak at the meeting to introduce themselves. The sitting Councillors will then discuss the co-option and make their decision. Once the candidate has signed a Declaration of Acceptance of Office, the candidate becomes a Councillor.

Co-opted v elected councillors

There is no difference between co-opted and elected councillors other than how they become councillors. The requirements and duties are the same for all Councillors irrespective of how they attained office.

A co-opted Councillor is one who is appointed to the Council by Councillors, rather than being elected. It is obviously better for local democracy if people stand as councillors via an election, but it is important to have people willing to serve.

Code of Conduct

All Councillors are expected to abide by the Code of Conduct which covers the principles of public life and disclosing personal and pecuniary interests as defined by the Localism Act. It is up to individual Councillors to decide whether they have an interest or not, but it is better to be open and declare anything which you, or others, might think could affect your decision making. There is a legal requirement to disclose and register a pecuniary (financial) interest.

In making all decisions, Councillors are expected to abide by the following principles :

Selflessness
Honesty
Integrity
Objectivity
Accountability
Openness
Leadership

At the March 2020 meeting of Dartington Parish Council filled three of the vacancies are there are now 7 Councillors in post. There are still vacancies and having too few Councillors at a local level means that parishioners are under-represented.

If you have any questions about being a Councillor, please contact the Clerk. If you know someone who you think would be a good councillor perhaps talk to them and see if they are willing to come forward.

Quorum:

No Council business can be conducted unless there is a quorum – the legal minimum number of Councillors present. A quorum is one third of seats available rounded up to the nearest whole number. In Dartington’s case there are 11 seats on the Council so the quorum is four. The quorum can be affected if a Councillor declares an interest meaning they can’t vote on a particular item of the meeting 

All Councillors have a duty to register any interests they have and declare them. The form can be downloaded from the link below.

SH Register of Interest Form Parishes 2019