Councils provide support to councillors in their role as democratically elected representatives, although the level and type of support provided will vary.
Councils provide support to councillors in their role as democratically elected representatives, although the level and type of support provided will vary. It can include:
- induction and training
- access to space in the council offices, such as a members’ room
- office equipment such as a mobile phone, laptop and printer
- access to media and general communications advice
- research support.
Some support is provided for all councillors, while other support is provided via the political groups (or, if you are an independent councillor, your council may have an independent group office). The leader of the council and cabinet members are more likely to have access to dedicated support, along with the chairs of scrutiny in some councils.
- Induction and training
Most councils offer induction courses for new councillors to familiarise them with their new role and how the council works. Your induction should introduce you to the members and officers you need to know to do your job effectively and show you how and where to access the information you will need. It should also run through the legal framework you will be operating within.
Some councils provide a wider range of training for councillors. This may build your knowledge in a particular service area (such as education, adult social care, housing or planning) or develop your skills – for example effective scrutiny, working with the media, presentations, political leadership, influencing or time management.
From time to time, your council may hold briefings and away-days to bring everyone up to date with the big issues affecting the council and its local area, or joint events where officers and councillors work together to formulate strategy and build good working relationships.
- Accessing information
Most of the information you need to be effective in your new role as a councillor will be available online. Your council’s website and intranet will contain information about the council, the way it works, its services and the local area.
Council papers may be provided electronically and/or in paper form. Many councils have good tele-conference facilities that enable you to attend meetings remotely, or you may be able to join meetings through video chat or voice call services.
Officers have a duty to ensure that councillors have access to the information they need in order to make well-informed decisions. They may do this by producing factual reports, making presentations or arranging visits – for example, taking members of the planning committee to visit a site that is subject to a planning application. In some councils, the larger political groups may have a political assistant who can carry out research on their behalf.
All councillors are entitled to a basic allowance. Those with additional roles may also receive a special responsibility allowance (SRA) which reflects the level of responsibility and expected time commitment. Allowances are set by the council on the recommendation of an independent remuneration panel. Councils may also cover the cost of childcare or dependent care, along with travel and subsistence.
Allowances are subject to income tax, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you pay the correct amount. Some incidental costs, such as use of a home office and telephone, can be deducted before calculating the tax to be paid.
The LGA's range of political leadership development programmes also helps to support and develop councillors ensuring our local politicians are confident and capable. Further information on political leadership development is available on our website.