Current situation – as of January 2020
There are currently only 4 Councillors in post out of a possible 11. This means that the Council can only just function and more Councillors are needed urgently.
Why are there so few Councillors at the moment?
There is no straightforward answer to this. Dartington is full of people who are interested and engaged, but many are already fully committed to their own “causes”. A Parish Councillor needs to be broad based and respond to parishioners’ needs. The Council is not a single issue campaigning organisation, but it can be effective. Being a Councillor does require a commitment, but a term of office is only 4 years and you can make a difference. Over the last year Dartington Parish Councillors have successfully persuaded DCC to reinstate the virtual pavement along Cott Road, have upgraded the Gidley’s Meadow play area with new seats and equipment, have awarded grants to local organisations in the parish (including the Village Hall, St Mary’s Churchyard, the DRA and Meadowbrook), set up a working group to look at planting trees, held regular meetings with Dartington Hall Trust and carried out maintenance on bus shelters and footpaths. The Council also has its own website, produces its quarterly Parish Magazine, Our Dartington, which is delivered by volunteers to every house in the parish, responds to planning applications and is producing a Neighbourhood Plan. It’s a lot of work for four councillors and a part time Clerk! At the last election (May 2019) some long serving Councillors did not stand for re-election and felt others would step forward, but in the end there were not enough nominations for the available seats.
If you have ever thought about being a local councillor, now would be a good time to put those thoughts into action! There is training available and a wealth of information to help you. Contact the Clerk if you are interested or would like more information. Email email@example.com
This is a useful publication which gives an overview: The-Good-Councillors-guide-2018
Standing as a Parish Councillor.
The Council meets on the 2nd Wednesday of each month except August from 7-9pm in the Village Hall, and Councillors are expected to attend 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.
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. In Dartington, people came forward and were co-opted, but following a resignation due to ill health there are again 7 vacancies; this really 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 parishioners are under-represented!
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. The sitting Councillors will co-opt new members at a Council meeting so you would need to provide some information to the Clerk about who you are and what you could bring to the Council and you’d be invited to say something at the meeting.
More about the requirements are in the document below – pages 3, 4 & 5 are the relevant pages.
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.
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 obviously better for local democracy if people stand as councillors via an election, but it is important to have people willing to serve.
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, but when there are vacancies, the Council has a duty to co-opt new members to the Council to fill the vacancies.
Process for co-opting to Casual Vacancies arising on the Council
There is a formal process for co-opting new Councillors which has been outlined above. 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. 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 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 councillor 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 four councillors in post which means that if someone is absent or has declared an interest meaning they can’t vote, the meeting can’t be held.