Guide: How to stand for Election - Information for Candidates

Part 7

Local Government in Devon

Local Government in Devon

For more information about local government in Devon and the different services that the County and District Councils are responsible please see Public Services in Devon.

Councillor’s roles

The role of a Local Authority Councillor continues to evolve and be an area of continuing Government focus. Councillors are a bridge linking the community and the council, therefore Councillors need to develop and deliver in a community leadership role. The role also demands the ability to balance the needs of one community with a wider agenda which covers the entire council’s area.

Government recognises the importance of this role, and the role of the councillor as a community leader has never been more vital. Changes in local government have, over the past few years, reshaped the way elected members work and how they engage with the communities they represent. The Localism Act has had a further significant impact on how elected members relate to their communities. In a climate of political and economic uncertainty, the ability of elected members to work effectively with and on behalf of their communities is more important than ever.

It is important that the role of councillor is understood by all involved. The public, businesses, partners and council officers have to understand what councillors do, how they do it, as well as the limitations of the role. Councillors need to continue to develop their community leadership role, utilising the democratic processes open to them (e.g. committee meetings, area or ward meetings, overview and scrutiny committees). Councillors are a conduit between the community and the council, working to address local issues based on local needs and knowledge. The Council will provide information and support to councillors, to assist them in performing this critical role, whatever Local Government Structures are in place in the future.

Councillors are increasingly being asked to do more as their role expands into all areas of policy through Overview and Scrutiny, area committees, neighbourhood working and increasing work linked to partnerships.

The Local Government Association has published documents on the role of a Councillor;

A Councillor:

  • provides a voice for and help to all members of the community
  • makes decisions on behalf of residents
  • contributes to council policy and strategy
  • has responsibility for scrutiny (checking and monitoring what the council does)
  • has regulatory duties (making sure laws are kept to, e.g. planning)
  • is a community leader

What does a councillor do for the community / community leadership?

Councillors take a comprehensive view of the needs and priorities of local areas and lead in the work that is needed to meet these needs. This often takes place in partnership with other organisations and councillors may:-

  • hold surgeries, where local people can ask for help or advice
  • follow up on issues raised at these surgeries
  • represent the community within the council and to other organisations
  • develops links with all parts of the community
  • support and be involved with local partnerships and organisations
  • campaign on local issues
  • win resources for the ward, e.g. money for local organisations or regeneration
  • use locality budgets to help with local projects

Scrutiny

There is an important role for a councillor – called Scrutiny – which is to review council policies and activities. All councils must have this function and must have one such committee, made up of councillors who are not members of the Cabinet. The Council’s Scrutiny rules are contained within the Council’s Constitution. There are dedicated Scrutiny pages that explain further about the role

Scrutiny takes in a varied range of activities which include:

  • review and development of the council’s policies
  • make policy and budget proposals to the council
  • review of proposed executive decisions
  • call in or review of decisions before they are implemented
  • call Cabinet to account
  • performance monitoring and review
  • scrutiny of other local organisations, including health services