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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 few 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:

Councillors’ work

  • On average, Councillors had served for 9.2 years in their current authority; 47% had served for up to 5 years while 11% had done so for more than 20 years;
  • 54% of Councillors held a position of responsibility, most commonly membership of the Cabinet/Executive;
  • Councillors spent, on average, 22 hours per week on council business, the largest aspect of which was on Council meetings (8 hours); and
  • 39% of Councillors were also members of another public body.

Councillors’ views

  • 85% of Councillors became Councillors in order to serve their community;
  • 60% thought that representing local residents was among the most important role of Councillors, and 51% thought the same of supporting local communities;
  • 34% of Councillors thought they were very effective in their role, and 57% fairly effective;
  • 85% would recommend the role of Councillor to others; and
  • 68% intended to stand for re-election.

Councillors’ personal characteristics

  • 45% of Councillors were retired, and 26% in full or part-time employment;
  • 64% of Councillors held other voluntary or unpaid positions, such as school governorships;
  • 68% of Councillors held a degree or equivalent qualification; only 3% did not hold any qualification;
  • 63% of Councillors were male, and 36% female;
  • The average age of councillors in 2018 was 59 years; 15% were aged under-45 and 43% were aged 65 or over;
  • 96 % described their ethnic background as white;
  • 88% described their sexual orientation as heterosexual or straight;
  • 16% had a long-term health problem or disability which limited their daily activities; and
  • 36% of Councillors had a responsibility as a carer, most commonly looking after a child.

In addition, the type of Authority can also influence the amount of time spent on duties. The rurality of Devon means that Members may spend longer on travelling than, for example, a Councillor working in a smaller urban environment.


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