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Become a local councillor

Information on how to become a local councillor and how to stand for election.

Legal requirements to be a local councillor

To be eligible to stand for election you must be:

  • 18 or over on the day of nomination
  • and a UK, Commonwealth or EU citizen

You must also be:

  • a registered voter in the electoral area
  • or have lived in the district/borough for 12 months prior to nomination
  • or have worked in the district/borough for 12 months prior to nomination
  • or own a property in the district/borough for 12 months prior to nomination

It is not necessary for you to live in the ward that you wish to seek election for.

The formal election process begins with the publication of the Notice of Election, after which you may submit nomination papers to formally register your intention to stand for election.

Standing as a member of a political party

If you are thinking of standing as a candidate for a particular political party, you will need to be a member of that party's local organisation. More information on the parties that are currently represented on any of the Dorset councils can be found on their national websites or in the phone book. For more information, visit the  Electoral Commission's website (opens in a new window).

Standing as an independent

The independent group on the Local Government Association has prepared a handy hints guide for independent councillors and candidates. For more information, visit the  Electoral Commission's website (opens in a new window)​.

The nomination process

Nomination is the formal process of putting yourself forward for election at the time of an election. Nomination papers are available from the Electoral Commission's website (opens in a new window). If you are standing as a member of a political party your nomination papers may also be obtained from the appropriate party political offices.

To stand as a councillor, your nomination paper must be signed by a proposer, seconder and eight further assentors. These people must be registered voters in the ward that you wish to stand for.

At the close of the nomination period a 'Statement of Persons Nominated' for each electoral area is produced and a copy is sent to each relevant candidate.

If there is a contest, each candidate is notified of the dates and times that the postal votes will be opened, each candidate will also be sent a form allowing them to appoint agents and guests to attend. The candidate will also be sent a Statement of Election Expenses and a Declaration of Election Expenses (these must be completed and submitted no later than 35 working days after polling day.)

The Notice of Poll for each electoral area is then published and sent to each relevant candidate. Candidates may also request a copy of the list of absent voters for the electoral area in which they are standing.

Postal votes are dispatched about a week before polling day; these are then usually opened before the day of the election.

On Election Day candidates may visit the polling stations during polling hours and may attend the counting of the votes after the poll has closed.

After the polling closes the votes are counted and the results are announced.

Being a Councillor with a disability

  • the criteria for being a councillor are set out in above. If you have a disability and are interested in standing as a councillor the same conditions apply
  • for prospective councillors  who have disabilities the authority can provide you with the same support as all other prospective candidates and in addition can provide information in formats that may make it easier for you to use. There are no additional funds or support available for conducting your campaign from your local council but if you are a member of a political party they may be able to provide some support
  • once you become a councillor, your council will work with you to overcome any barriers there are to you being fully involved in the democratic and council processes
  • being a councillor is not a full time job and may not affect any incapacity benefit you receive, however individual cases will vary so please do check this with the Department for Work and Pensions. If you claim benefits and take up a remunerated public position you should talk to a welfare rights adviser before taking up the role
  • the charity Scope has published a short guide (opens in a new window) to encourage people with disabilities to become actively involved in public and political life
  • Labour Party disabled candidate help (opens in a new window)
  • Liberal Democrat Party Help for disabled candidates (opens in a new window)
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