Could you be a Parish Councillor?

Parish Council elections are normally held every four years – the last one was in 2023, and the next is due in 2027. But from time to time vacancies on the Council arise between election years.

We would love to de-mystify what being a Parish Councillor means, in the hope that you might feel you could become involved the next time a vacancy arises, whether at a formal election or through a process called co-option.

In fact, we have two vacancies now (April 2024) – see our post at the right of this page.

Do any of these sound familiar?

Some of our past and current Parish Councillors felt like that before they joined. But they are ordinary people who come from all walks of life – just like you. What motivates them is a sense of community and a desire to protect and improve their neighbourhood – just like you? 

If you have common sense and a can-do attitude, you will be able to make a successful Parish Councillor, whatever your background. Most people over age 18 living or working in St Michael Parish can apply – but please see resources at the bottom of this page for the eligibility rules and the specific circumstances which would disqualify applicants.

For a start, you do not need to have a “party political” outlook. Our Councillors at St Michael are welcoming and friendly, and do not represent particular parties; everyone works together to act on behalf of all the local residents.

Most of our Councillors had no special skills or experience to begin with. Like you, what they had were things they had gained from life in general – whether from parenting, education, employment, home and caring responsibilities or the voluntary sector. We provide support and resources to help you fill in any gaps in skills and knowledge.

We want to be realistic – yes, you will need to devote time to being a Parish Councillor. Our whole purpose is to represent our local people in raising and discussing those issues of interest and concern on which the Parish Council is empowered to act. The amount of time needed to achieve this will very largely depend on the motivation and willingness of individuals to get involved, but in practice, the time obligation should not be onerous.

You would be expected to attend the four ordinary Parish Council Meetings a year, each typically lasting about two to two and a half hours. Preparation and reading time is usually limited to a few papers in the week or two ahead of Meetings.  Very occasionally there may be other Meetings, for example acting as a representative on an outside body, community activities or helping develop a new project for the community. There will also be emails to read regularly and answer, most often within the Parish Councillor group, but sometimes involving external queries.

Parish Councillors stay in post until the earlier of their resignation and the next formal Parish Council elections, which are held every four years (the next being May 2027 in St Albans). If they wish, they are then able to stand for re-election.

A clerk is employed for approximately two and a half hours a week to support Councillors and to administer many aspects of the Parish Council’s day-to-day business.

You can find out further information by following the links below.

All About Town and Parish Councils prepared by the National Association of Local Authorities (NALC).

It takes all sorts prepared by the NALC in 2011 as part of a drive to encourage individuals from under represented groups to become local councillors.

Make a Change, Become a Councillor a campaign by NALC to encourage people from all backgrounds to put themselves forward to join Parish and Town Councils. The site includes a number of short films collated where you can hear from Parish Councillors about why they joined their council and what difference they hope to make.

Am I eligible to be a Parish Councillor?

The rules are complex, particularly around disqualification.  Reference should be made to e.g. The Electoral Commission’s guidance for candidates

For co-option candidates, references to “nomination” and “election” should read “appointment by co-option”.

A candidate (“you”) must:

  • be at least 18 years old, AND
  • be a British citizen, an eligible Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of any member state of the European Union, AND
  • meet at least one of the following four qualifications:
  1. You are, and will continue to be, registered as a local government elector for the parish in which you wish to stand from the day of your nomination onwards.
  2. You have occupied as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the parish area during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election.
  3. Your main or only place of work during the 12 months prior to the day of your nomination and the day of election has been in the parish area.
  4. You have lived in the parish area or within three miles of it during the whole of the 12 months before the day of your nomination and the day of election.

    Apart from meeting the qualifications for standing for election, you must also not be disqualified.  Examples are persons with certain bankruptcy orders and terms of imprisonment, as well as those subject to the notification requirement of or under Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, or a disqualification under the Representation of the People Act 1983.