Parish Council Elections
The Nature of a Local Council
A local, or Parish Council is composed of a chairman and councillors.
The number of councillors is fixed by the district council. In England
it must not be less than five. If a local council resolves to call itself
the town council the chairman is entitled to be called the mayor.
As a body corporate the council is a person and distinct from its members
either as individuals or collectively. Its assets, acts and liabilities
are its own and not those of its members.
Eligibility for office
A person is qualified to stand for office if he/she is a British subject
or citizen of the Irish Republic or other Euronational, is over 21, and
is an elector. In addition he/she will be qualified if he/she has either
during the whole of the twelve months before the day on which he is nominated
as a candidate, or the day of the election, resided in the parish or
within 3 miles of it or occupied as owner or tenant any land or premises
therein or had his/her principal place of work there. One effect of these
rules is that it is possible to be a member of more than one local council.
A person may be disqualified from being elected or being a member in
a number of ways:
- Holding paid office in the gift or disposal of the council
- Bankruptcy and execution of compositions arrangements with
creditors create disqualifications which date from the judgment and
the debts have been paid in full or when the bankruptcy has been
annulled for error or discharged with a certificate that it was caused
misfortune. In other cases the disqualification ceases five years
after discharge or fulfillment of the deed of composition or arrangement.
- A person may be disqualified by order of the court if it holds him/her
responsible for incurring or authorising illegal expenditure exceeding £2,000.
- A person is disqualified if he/she has within five years before the
election or since the election been convicted in the United Kingdom,
Islands or the Isle of Man of any offence and has been sentenced to
not less than three months’ imprisonment (whether suspended or
not) without the option of a fine.
- Finally a person may be disqualified under any enactment relating
to corrupt or illegal practices. The name of any such person will
in a special list which must be published with the electoral register.
How to Attain Office
A suitably qualified person may become a member of a local council in
five different ways. These are:
- Ordinary election
- Co-option to a casual vacancy
- Appointment by the district council
- Return after a successful election petition
- Ordinary Election
Each candidate must be nominated on a separate nomination
paper stating his/her full name, place of residence and description.
officer (appointed by the district council) must supply nomination papers
and prepare them for signature on request. Each nomination paper must
be signed by a proposer and seconder (subscribers) who must be electors
for the locality or, if it is divided into wards, of the relevant ward
for which the candidate is nominated. A nomination is void unless the
candidate consents in writing.
If there are enough vacancies for the validly surviving candidates the
returning officer must, not later than 11 o’clock on the day of
the election, declare them elected. If their number exceeds the number
of vacancies, a poll must be held by the method of secret ballot. If
there is a tie, the returning officer must decide by lot.
A bye-election of the whole council can occur when a local council comes
into existence in some year other than the year in which district councillor
for the locality is elected, and when an entire election is declared
void and lastly when a new election is ordered by the district council
under its ‘reserve power’.
A bye-election to a particular vacancy occurs either where the membership
of a local council has been increased during the term of office of the
existing members or where a bye-election to fill a casual vacancy has
been claimed. The vacancies in newly created offices are not ‘casual’ and
must therefore be filled in any of the ways in which vacancies are filled
at or immediately after the ordinary elections.
Bye-elections are conducted in the same way as ordinary elections.
A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred:
- When a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance
of office within the proper time or
- When his notice of resignation is received; or
- On the day of his death; or
- In the case of disqualification by conviction or an order under the
1972 Act; or
- In the case of an election being declared void; or
- Where a person ceases to become disqualified, or becomes disqualified
for any reason other than conviction or an order, or is persistently
absent from meetings, upon the date when his office is declared
vacant by the High Court or council as the case may be.
After the vacancy has been declared, it must be publicly
notified in the usual manner. If a poll is claimed by ten electors a
takes place within 60 days of the notice of vacancy. If not poll is claimed
in time, the council fills the vacancy by co-option as soon as is practicable.
It must do this, if the period of vacancy has six months or more to run.
It may, but is not bound to do so, if less.
The Reserve Powers of the District Council
A district council has far-reaching powers designed to prevent such
breakdowns as may result from a local council being improperly constituted
in the first instance for reasons other than shortage of candidates or
the abandonment of a poll, or from its becoming unable to act at a later