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Guide: How to stand for Election - Information for Candidates

Part 8

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

A variety of different studies have been carried out over the years on how long councillors spend on their duties.

The National Census of Local Authority Councillors is a publication conducted every two years to provide the most comprehensive `snapshots’ of local government representation and analysis of trends over time. This helps with the overview of Councillor roles, especially in terms of their place shaping and what is required in terms of assistance. If you follow the link, there is both an Executive summary of the report and also a full version which gives lots of detail around age profiles, employment status, age, gender and ethnic origin, amongst other things.

The census asks councillors about:

  • their work as councillors
  • their views on a range of issues
  • their personal background.

The census ensures that the LGA has accurate information about councillors, and how they carry out their work, and hence receive the best possible support. Accurate data of this nature aids central and local government and political parties in the development of strategies and policies. Some of the main findings are summarised below:

Work as a councillor

  • Councillors spent, on average, 25 hours per week on council/political business, compared to around 22 hours over 2004-2010.
  • 53 per cent of councillors held one or more positions of leading responsibility within the council, and 36 per cent were members of local partnership groups or boards (such as Health and Wellbeing Boards).
  • Councillors rated PCs or laptops, council e-mail addresses and smartphones as the most useful resources.

Issues and views of councillors

  • 90 per cent of councillors cited a desire to serve the community as their reason for wanting to become a councillor.
  • 70 per cent thought that listening to local views was the most important thing for councillors to do, while 65 per cent said that representing local residents’ views to the council was the most important thing for them to do.
  • 65 per cent of councillors intended to stand for re-election at the end of their term in office and 82 per cent would recommend taking on the role to others.

Personal background of councillors

  • 67 per cent of councillors were male, 32 per cent were female. The proportion of female councillors has increased from 29 per cent in 2001.
  • The average age of councillors has increased from 55 in 1997 to 60 in 2013.
  • 96 per cent of councillors were white and 4 per cent came from an ethnic minority background.

In addition, the type of Authority can also influence the amount of time spent on duties. The same study found that the average number of hours per week in Shire counties was 27.9, therefore slightly higher than the national average. of 25.1 hours.

Of course, the rurality of Devon means that Members may spend longer on travelling than, for example, a Councillor working in a smaller urban environment.

The last survey undertaken in Devon (2014) showed that Members spent 27.8 hours (average) on Council business (almost identical to the national shire county results). Those who held a position of responsibility such as a Cabinet Member post or Chairman of a Committee reported spending and average of approximately 39.42 hours per week, with Backbenchers stating time spent of 22.43 hours.