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What does a Councillor's role involve?

As a Councillor, your main role is to serve the interests of your constituents, represent them in Council meetings and explain Council policy, procedures and decisions to them.

Your role on the Council as a whole is to plan, run, monitor and develop Council business. Councillors are essential in deciding what is in the public interest in the midst of a range of conflicting issues and views.

You should participate effectively as a member of any committee, sub-committee, working group or task group to which you are appointed, including related responsibilities for the services or resources falling within the committee's terms of reference.

On an ongoing basis, you should monitor how effectively the Council is performing and meeting its targets, and whether it is achieving best value for the money it is spending. Councillors are also there to make sure that policies, strategies, budget and efficient service delivery are all being adhered to or achieved.

The citizens you represent will look to you for help in dealing with their problems. You are likely to receive a lot of post, emails and telephone calls and not every caller will telephone at what you might think is a reasonable hour!

Most Councillors hold drop-in surgeries. You may spend some of your time visiting constituents at their homes or in the Council offices and you may have to meet with Officers of the Council to help you with any issues.

Being a local Councillor involves holding a position of trust and can be a rewarding experience. To be an effective Councillor requires both commitment and hard work. Councillors have to balance the needs and interests of residents, the political party they represent (if any) and the Council.

Being a Councillor will place a number of demands on your time, and you should consider the level of commitment required before putting yourself forward. You will have Council and Committee meetings to attend during the day and many of the groups that you will have regular contact with, such as Community Councils, meet in the evening.

If a Councillor is appointed to a leading position in the Council such as Committee Chairperson, Council Leader or Provost, this is likely to require a full-time commitment. Regardless of their position, it is important that all Councillors take an active part in the life of the Council and serve the interests of their constituents by participating in Committee meetings and decision-making for the duration of their period of office.

The main aspects of a Councillor's role

The Improvement Service has identified the seven main aspects of a Councillor's role which are summarised below. For more information on each aspect, see What do Councillors do? on the website.

  • A representative of his/her constituents
    The main role of a Councillor is to represent their ward and the people who live in it, ensuring that the community's views are represented and fed into Council decisions. All Councillors act as 'case workers' for individual constituents who ask for advice or support.
  • A leader
    The key to all of the roles of the Councillor is leadership. Leaders of Councils are not just those who hold formal roles such as the Council leader or Committee Convener. Every Councillor is a leader within and of the community that chose to elect them to represent their area and their interests.
  • A decision maker
    Councillors play an important role in the Council's decision making process. They are responsible for ensuring the Council has a clear direction and accountability and appropriate working arrangements in place to ensure that it achieves what it sets out to do.
  • Regulator
    Some Council Committees, such as those which deal with planning and licensing applications, have a quasi-judicial role. These regulatory Committees operate within a specific set of legislation and guidance, and Councillors make decisions in accordance with such guidance.
  • Developing and reviewing policy
    Councillors contribute to the development and review of the Council's policies.
  • Scrutinising service performance
    Councillors have an important role in scrutinising and monitoring how well services are delivered by the Council and its partners.
  • The political role
    If you stand for election on a political party platform, rather than as an independent candidate, you will have additional duties to carry out for your party.


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