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. Whatever needs changing in your local area, you could be the person to change it by becoming a county councillor.
What matters to you in your local area? Is it keeping people safe? a sustainable and prosperous community? or helping people and communities reach their full potential?
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.
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.
The defining feature of West Sussex County Council is that it is directly elected by the residents of the county who are served by it. West Sussex County Council covers a large geographical area which is broken down into 70 electoral divisions.
A councillor’s primary role is to represent the 12,000 or so residents in one of the 70 electoral divisions (also known as the local community). You provide a bridge between that community and the County Council by being an advocate for them and signposting them to the right people at the council. You therefore need to have an understanding of the issues that affect your community.
County Councillors are also able to influence decisions that impact on the lives of the 880,000 or so residents, local businesses and those who work and visit West Sussex through participation in the effective and responsible management of the County Council. This is done by contributing or scrutinising the County Councils budget, strategies and polices, its commissioning activity and the services it delivers. You achieve this primarily through preparing for and attending meetings at the County Council.
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.
You can e-mail Democratic Services to request a copy of the role profile which describes what is expected of a County Councillor in more detail.
As a minimum you are expected to attend meetings of the full Council which take place five or six times a year, usually at County Hall, Chichester on a Friday commencing at 10.30am.
If you are appointed to a role on a Committee, these meetings also take place during the day usually on the same day of the week, and you would usually be expected to attend in person, often at our offices in Chichester. For training and more informal meetings you can usually join virtually using the IT equipment provided.
You can watch webcasts of some of these meetings.
The dates of meetings held in public are usually agreed in the preceding year, here is the current calendar of meetings setting out the dates.
The majority of Councillors spend on average 22 hours per week fulfilling these roles but those in leadership roles spend considerably more time than this. No two weeks tend to be the same.
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 the relevant District or Brough Council for the area you would wish to represent. Please refer to the useful contacts section for contact details. The nomination packs will only be available nearer the election date.
(Please note these films were made in 2019)
We need people from all backgrounds and experiences to put themselves forward for election. You don’t need any experience or special qualifications – your life experience, everyday skills, passion and commitment to people and communities are vital and it’s important that West Sussex County Council reflects the local population. However, there are a range of useful skills which help councillors carry out their role such as being a leader in your community; having good communication skills; team working; problem solving; questioning and analytical skills; being organised and able to manage time well, political understanding and be able to join meetings both virtually and in-person.
We can arrange for you to shadow an existing member if you are planning on standing for election.
Please note that all members are required to have a DBS check carried out.
By law, if you are working your employer must allow you to take a reasonable amount of time off during working hours to perform your duties as a councillor. The amount of time given will depend on your responsibilities and the effect of your absence on your employer’s business. Employers can choose to pay you for this time, but they don’t have to. We would encourage you to talk to your employer as soon as possible before making the commitment to stand for election.
If you are planning on standing for election and are interested in shadowing an existing member, please contact Democratic Services.
Yes you can. If you have a disability we can make reasonable adjustments to ensure you are not disadvantaged. Before you decide to stand we recommend you contact officers in Democratic Services to request a copy ofthe support for councillors with a disability guidance, gain a full understanding of the role and discuss what support might be able to put in place for you.
The LGA is delivering a bespoke national campaign to encourage disabled people to find out more about becoming a councillor. This campaign, which is funded by the UK Government, is designed to increase the representation of disabled people in local government.
As it is a voluntary role an annual allowance is provided as some recompense for the time spent on County Council business and the various costs associated likely to be incurred (e.g. use of your home, telephone calls, travel on local business and any civic events). Some councillors take on additional leadership roles for which a special responsibility allowance is paid. In addition, travel, subsistence and carers allowance may be paid in certain circumstances.
The allowance you would receive would count as taxable allowance and this may have an impact if you are in receipt of benefits. Councils are not able to have any pension arrangements for councillors.
You can find out more from the Member allowance scheme
A full induction and training programme is provided (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.
Becoming and serving as a councillor is a huge privilege and responsibility, but it also means councillors are very visible and often easily accessible to residents.
A pressing concern facing those in public office is the increasing levels of intimidation, harassment and abuse they are experiencing. While debate and expressing different views is all part of a healthy representative democracy, these unacceptable behaviours undermine the key democratic principles of free speech, debate and engagement, and sometimes pose a risk to councillors’ safety. Thankfully, serious incidents remain very rare. Guidance on this matter is available from the LGA. If you have any concerns about this aspect e-mail Democratic Services and they can share details of the guidance and support on offer.
Please search by postcode for your electoral division and current county councillor. To find out more about electoral boundaries Electoral division boundaries - West Sussex County Council.
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.
- 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.
- Make sure you are registered on the electoral roll with your local council.
- 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.
- 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.
- Almost anyone can be a councillor but check in the ‘Eligibility’ section above that you are eligible
- Hear from real councillors about what it’s like being a councillor and their tips and inspiration
- Get in touch with a councillor to find out more with an informal chat (or ask us to help)
- Use our Be a Councillor worksheets to see how you would handle some real situations as a councillor
- Explore, research and keep up to date about your local area, different communities, services, issues and ideas.
- Attend council meetings and local events to find out more about local government and your community.
- 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.
- Contact the Electoral 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.
- You will need to get the signature of two registered electors from the ward you wish to stand in. They must be of voting age, and must appear on the local government electoral register that is in force on the 25th working day before the election.
- Build your local profile, reputation and campaign. Find out more about campaigning from the Local Government Association’s Independents, your political party, or the Electoral Commission.
To find out more about being a Councillor, come along to one of our events or drop-in sessions which will include an opportunity to hear from existing County Councillors:
In person event: 20 February 2024, 6.30pm-8.00pm, Crawley Library, Southgate Avenue, Crawley RH10 6HG
Drop in: 5 March 2024, 4.15pm-5.15pm, Lancing Library, Penstone Park, Lancing, BN15 9DL
Drop in: 21 March 2024, 4.15pm-5.15pm, Littlehampton Library, Maltravers Road, Littlehampton, BN17 5NA
Drop in: 11 May 2024, 10.30am-11.30am, Worthing Library, Richmond Road, Worthing, BN11 1PW
Drop in: 16 May 2024, 12.30pm-1.30pm, Burgess Hill Library, 5-19 The Martlets, Burgess Hill, RH15 9NN
Drop in: 5 June 2024,4.15pm-5.15pm, Horsham Library, Lower Tanbridge Way, Horsham, RH12 1PJ
In person or virtual event: 18 June 2024, 6.30pm-8.00pm, County Hall, Chichester, West Street, Chichester PO19 1RG
To request a place at either the event in Crawley in February 2024 or in Chichester in June 2024 please email Democratic Services.
Be a Councillor Email: [email protected]
West Sussex County Council contacts
Head of Democratic Services
0330 222 2532
Senior Adviser – Council & Member Support
0330 222 2524
District Councils Elections Teams
Adur & Worthing Councils
Arun District Council
Chichester District Council
Crawley Borough Council
Horsham District Council
Mid Sussex District Council