West Sussex County Council

West Sussex County Council can only be as effective, relevant and vibrant as the people elected to run it. The council needs councillors who are capable, energetic and engaged, with a commitment to local people and a passion for change.


What matters to you in your local area? Is it giving children the best start in life, ensuring local residents feel safe and secure in their communities, a stronger local economy or helping ensure people can remain independent in later life Whatever needs changing in your local area, you could be the person to change it by becoming a county councillor.

West Sussex County Council can only be as effective, relevant and vibrant as the people elected to run it. The council needs councillors who are capable, energetic and engaged, with a commitment to local people and a passion for change.

Decisions made by councillors affect the lives of everyone in the area in countless ways. Representing the population of over half a million across West Sussex, understanding the issues and concerns they face and taking action are the most important tasks that any councillor undertakes.

Why we became councillors
Watch an interview compilation of West Sussex County Councillors encouraging residents to stand for election in 2021

 

Or read the transcript

About West Sussex County Council

West Sussex County Council covers a large geographical area which is broken down into 70 electoral divisions. They are elected for four years unless they are elected at a by-election, in which case they must stand again at the next normal election for the seat.

Representing people in West Sussex, understanding the issues and concerns they face and taking action is the most important task that any councillor undertakes. Significantly, it is also often the role that local people value most.

West Sussex County Council covers a large geographical area, which, from May 2017, will be broken down into 70 electoral divisions. County councillors are elected to serve West Sussex and to specifically represent one of these electoral divisions on the council – making a total of 70 councillors.

Find out about the current political make-up of the council.

How do I become a councillor in West Sussex?

To become a councillor you have to stand at local elections and compete with other candidates to gain the most votes from the local electorate.

You do not have to belong to or represent a political party to stand in the elections. You can stand as an Independent Candidate or choose not to have a description to your name.

If you choose to stand for a party you will need to go through their selection process before you can be put forward as their candidate. Please contact your political party as soon as you can. You can also contact the Local Government Association (LGA) political offices.

If you are interested in support for independent politics, you can get in touch with the LGA Independent Group and access the resources on their website.

In order to stand at the elections you must first get a set of nomination papers from Electoral Services at West Sussex County Council, which will explain the nomination process. These packs are available nearer the election date. 

Hear from our councillors

Chairman of West Sussex County Council, Janet Duncton
Read the transcript

Be a Councillor – Cllr Sujan Wickremaratchi

Be a Councillor – Cllr Kirsty Lord

Is there a job description for West Sussex councillors?

Yes, there is a job description for members elected from May 2021:

As a democratically elected local representative, members of the County Council hold a unique position and the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives.

As one of the 70 members of the County Council, councillors are not only responsible for representing around 9,000 residents in your division, but also the 800,000+ people who live in West Sussex, local businesses and those who work in or visit the county who also use some of the County Councils’ services. Members are expected to carry out their duties in the public interest, equally and without discrimination.

To fulfil their strategic role members are expected to:

  1. Participate in the effective and responsible management of the County Council by contributing or scrutinising its budget, strategies and policies, its commissioning activity and the services it delivers.
  2. Act as the County Council’s representative on such outside bodies or organisations which they are appointed by the County Council.
  3. Dedicate adequate time to fulfil their role as a member and attend all meetings they are a member of or have been appointed to whenever possible.
  4. Lead by example in setting high standards of conduct in public life as defined by the Nolan Principles.
  5. Participate in induction training and ongoing training and development to maintain skills and knowledge.
  6. Develop and maintain a working knowledge of the Council’s services, management arrangements, functions/duties and constraints and to develop good working relationships with relevant officers of the authority.
  7. To act as a Corporate Parent for children in the care of the County Council.

A councillor’s primary role is to represent the residents within their electoral division. Members provide a bridge between the community and the County Council by being an advocate for their local residents and signposting them to the right people at the council. Therefore, members need to keep themselves informed about the issues that affect their community.

In their local role, members are expected to:

Provide community leadership  

  • Be accessible locally, offer clear ways for the community to get in touch, have good personal networks and are visible to interact with the local voluntary and community sector. 
  • Communicate with residents utilising local opportunities for surgeries, attending community events/meetings, social media and newsletters.
  • Keep up to date about local and county matters that may affect their residents.
  • Work with local community groups who are interested in supporting/developing improved local services.
  • Understand how the council operates and are able to explain this to their residents including the strategic role of the county council.
  • Explain how council policy may affect a community and how a community can influence future policy.

Make things happen

  • Attend meetings of the County Local Committee(s)/Area Committee(s) for the area that they represent.
  • Be knowledgeable about the council and its services and who does what or be willing to find out.
  • Manage expectations, offer alternatives and explain what cannot be done.
  • Help, where possible, to solve problems for local residents.
  • Work collaboratively within the council and the community.
  • Campaign if appropriate.

Be involved in the community 

  • Maintain partnership links with members from the other tiers of local government to promote efficiencies and a ‘One Council’ approach to local service delivery.
  • Help, where possible, to solve local issues in liaison with staff, partners and other local organisations.
  • Visit local community organisations, understand the role they play in the community, help with local issues and support their sustainability.
  • Represent local community life, the local needs of the most vulnerable and the need to work in partnership and foster strong relationships with local community leaders.
  • Work with officers to ensure appropriate local solutions are supported to improve the resilience of communities.
  • Sit on other local bodies as required/appropriate.

Listen to residents:

  • Be aware of local issues and concerns.
  • Listen well and act decisively when all the evidence is available.
  • Be friendly and approachable.
  • Hold surgeries or have other mechanisms for being available to people.

Represent your communities

  • Represent ALL residents and members of the community ensuring that their needs as customers are met wherever possible.
  • Be aware of the performance of the County Council generally and in your division and act to address low or poor performance.
  • Make the views of the community known.

Behave ethically: County Councillors:

  • Observe the County Council’s adopted Code of Conduct.
  • Register interests as appropriate.
  • Be aware of the County Council’s Constitution.
  • Respect everyone in the community and treat people as individuals.
What does it involve?

In becoming a member of the county council you take on an important community leadership role, which will need to be balanced with your contribution to the strategic role of being involved the development of countywide policies and service delivery (see below).

The people you represent will look to you for help in dealing with their problems, even if these do not involve the work of the Council. You are likely to receive a lot of post/emails and many telephone calls. Not every caller will telephone at what you might think is a reasonable hour!

As a local member, residents expect you to: 

  • Respond to their queries and investigate their concerns (casework)
  • Communicate council decisions that affect them
  • Be familiar with the division and be aware of any problems
  • Know and work with representatives of local organisations (e.g. town/parish councils, community groups), interest groups and businesses
  • Represent their views at county council meetings
  • Lead local campaigns on their behalf

Each member approaches the role differently – there is no set way of doing things. The time you have available to fulfil the role will play a big part in this. Some members set aside time when they are available to meet their residents (sometimes known as holding a surgery), others do so by attending meetings and events in the local community. There is also a need to manage the queries and concerns that local residents raise through you – but Council staff can provide you with support in managing your local role.

As one of 70 elected members of the county council, you would not only responsible for representing around 9,000 residents in your division, but also the 836,250 (ONS estimate 2015) people who live in West Sussex. The county council provides or secures a range of public services for residents that can be considered to be ‘strategic’ in scope. These include: the provision of adults’ and children’s social care, planning and supporting school provision, managing the road network and waste disposal and running the Fire and Rescue Service. This means county councillors are called upon to consider the interests of residents and communities beyond their immediate area.

What meetings are West Sussex County Councillors expected to attend?

The minimum attendance of councillors is likely to be at the Full Council and your County local Committee. You may also be appointed to other committees, working groups or outside bodies.  The majority of Council meetings are held during the day but the County local Committees occur in the evening.

All members are expected to attend:

County Council meetings – there are between five to six of these a year (sometimes known as “Full Council” meetings), which all members should attend. These all take place in Chichester starting at 10.30am and lasting the best part of the day (usually finishing between 3pm – 4.30pm in the afternoon).

In addition, all members are encouraged to attend training, information and briefing sessions held approximately once per month, called Member Days.

At the current time member meetings are taking place virtually although the situation is under constant review.  It is possible that following the election in May 2021 member participation in meetings virtually will continue in some capacity.

County Local Committees (CLCs) – All members have a place on their CLC. There are eleven CLCs which meet in the evening three times (usually around 7pm) a year in the local area to consider local issues and consider requests for grant funding.

Calendar of meetings

Watch our meetings via the Council’s webcasting facility.

I don’t have any experience - can I still stand in West Sussex?

Absolutely! You may be surprised at how much relevant experience you have to offer. For example, anyone who is a parent or carer, or provides support to elderly family or friends has experience to draw on, as well as those with a business or public sector background. A full induction and training programme is provided and mentoring with an existing member can be arranged either for those thinking of standing for election or once elected.

Please note that all members are required to have a DBS check carried out (previously known as CRB check).

What additional roles are there at West Sussex?

Over and above representing your community, dealing with casework and attending county council and CLC meetings, there are a number of roles you might be invited to take on, such as being a member of a committee or working group.

The roles available on committees are proportionate to the political make-up of the County Council following the election. In addition to these there are a number of informal member meetings which members are encouraged to participate in virtually using the IT (videoconferencing) equipment provided.

For more of an insight into the time commitment required for the role we can put you in touch with one of our existing County Councillors or can share samples of diaries for members with specific roles.

Does West Sussex pay councillors?

Members are entitled to receive an annual allowance payable monthly and can claim travel and other expenses including covering the cost of caring responsibilities.

Member allowance scheme  

What support will I receive from West Sussex?

A full induction and training programme is provided (a summary of the programme offered to newly elected members following the May 2021 elections is available from Democratic Services on request).

All members are assigned an officer “buddy” to answer questions and guide them through the first few months in the role. Peer to peer support may be available for those elected to represent a political group.

All members are provided with and are expected to use a laptop so they can access their county council emails and other IT systems like our intranet site for members called the Members’ Information Network (the Mine) and an online telephone system.

Although hard copy papers can be sent out for formal meetings the council invites members to refer to meeting papers on-line.

Additional support is available for any member with mobility issues or disabilities including hidden disabilities such as dyslexia. Support for members’ health, wellbeing and safety is also available. This includes access to an independent support service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to deal with any personal or professional problem.

Find about more about the support available.

How do I find out which electoral ward I live in?

Please search by postcode for your electoral division and current county councillor. To find out more about electoral boundaries view our map.

Eligibility

You can be a councillor as long as you are:

  • British or a citizen of the Commonwealth or European Union
  • At least 18 years old
  • Registered to vote in the area or have lived, worked or owned property there for at least 12 months before an election.

If you are in any doubt about whether you are eligible to stand as a councillor, you should contact the electoral services department at your local council for advice.

You can’t be a councillor if you:

  • Work for the council you want to be a councillor for, or for another local authority in a politically restricted post
  • Are the subject of a bankruptcy restrictions order or interim order
  • Have been sentenced to prison for three months or more (including suspended sentences) during the five years before election day
  • Have been convicted of a corrupt or illegal practice by an election court.
Next steps

To become a councillor you have to put yourself forward at local elections and compete with other candidates to gain the most votes.

Below are some of the most important steps to consider.

  1. Find out when the next local government elections are in your area by checking with the council on the West Sussex elections page or the contacts page below.
  2. Make sure you are registered on the electoral roll with your local council.
  3. If you are interested in independent politics (not a political party), you can get resources and advice from the Local Government Association’s Independent Office and the Independent Campaign Corner. As an independent, you will also need to start working out your views on local issues and services.
  4. To stand for a political party, you’ll need to be a member of the party, get involved locally and go through their selection process before you can be put forward as their candidate for election. You can find out more on each party’s website. This can take up to about a year or more, so please contact your political party as soon as you can. You can also contact the Local Government Association (LGA) political offices. 
  5. Almost anyone can be a councillor but check in the ‘Eligibility’ section above that you are eligible 
  6. Get in touch with a councillor to find out more with an informal chat (or ask us to help)
  7. Watch the Be a Councillor film
  8. Use our Be a Councillor worksheets to see how you would handle some real situations as a councillor 
  9. Explore, research and keep up to date about your local area, different communities, services, issues and ideas.
  10. Attend council meetings and local events to find out more about local government and your community.
  11. Read the guidance from the Electoral Commission about the processes and forms to fill out to put yourself forward for election. To become nominated as a candidate at a local government election in England, you need to submit a completed set of nomination papers by a certain deadline. Please see the ‘Useful contacts’ below.
  12. Contact the Democratic Services team at the council to get the necessary paperwork, find out the deadlines, and see what help they can give to submit your papers. Find your local council.
  13. You will need to get 10 people (in the ward where you wish to stand) to sign your nomination papers.
  14. Build your local profile, reputation and campaign. Find out more about campaigning from the Local Government Association’s Independent Office, your political party, or the Electoral Commission.
Events

A virtual event will be taking place for those who have decided to stand for election at 6pm on 23 February 2021, check back here for further details and to register for a place nearer the time. You will need to register for a place in advance.

Useful contacts

Be a Councillor Email: beacouncillor@local.gov.uk

West Sussex County Council contacts

Helen Kenny
Head of Democratic Services
0330 222 2532
helen.kenny@westsussex.gov.uk

Charles Gauntlett
Senior Adviser – Council & Member Support
0330 222 2524
charles.gautlett@westsussex.gov.uk

 

District Councils Elections Teams

Adur & Worthing Councils
01903 221014
elections@adur-worthing.gov.uk

Arun District Council
01903 737610
elections@arun.gov.uk

Chichester District Council
01243 534592
elections@chichester.gov.uk

Crawley Borough Council
01293 438346
elections@crawley.gov.uk

Horsham District Council
01403 215280
elections@horsham.gov.uk

Mid Sussex District Council
01444 477222
elections@midsussex.gov.uk

Electoral Commission
0333 1031928
pef@electoralcommission.org.uk

www.electoralcommission.org.uk

Common questions about being a councillor

Frequently asked questions about being a councillor