Current situation – as of November 2019
At the last election (May 2019) there were not enough nominations for the available seats. Instead of waiting another 4 years for local elections to attract new nominations, the Council is required to co-opt people to these vacancies. Two people came forward and are now Councillors but there are still 5 vacancies; this limits the work the Council is able to do and gives more work to those who are already on the Council. Having too few councillors at a local level also means that you are under-represented!
About Parish Councils.
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.
Standing as a Parish Coucnillor.
To stand as a Parish Councillor in an election, or to be co-opted to the council, you need to meet certain requirements: you need to be at least 18, British or a commonwealth or EU citizen, registered to vote in the area and live or work in the area – which is the parish boundary and within 3 miles of it. More about the requirements are in the document below – pages 3, 4 & 5 are the relevant pages.
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 :
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 better for local democracy if people stand as councillors via an election.
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. When there are vacancies on the council you do not need to wait for an election before you can become a councillor, you can be co-opted to the Council.
Process for co-opting to Casual Vacancies arising on the Council
New Councillors are co-opted at a full meeting of the Parish Council which must be quorate (see below). Candidates should check they meet the eligibility requirements and send the Clerk some information about themselves (stating for example what they would bring to the Council) in advance of the meeting. Candidates are also invited to speak at the meeting to introduce themselves. The Councillors at the meeting will then discuss the co-option and make their decision. Once the Declaration of Acceptance of Office has been signed, the candidate becomes a Councillor and can take part in the rest of the meeting.
If you have any questions about being a Councillor, please contact the Clerk. If you know someone who you think would be a good councillors perhaps talk to them and see if they are willing to come forward.
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. Currently there are only 6 councillors in post.
The document below is a useful introduction to being a councillor.
Contact the Clerk if you are interested!