Become a Councillor

Would you like to influence the way local services are provided? Have you thought about getting more involved in the community?

Find out how you can stand for election at any of the three tiers (Colchester City Council, Local parish and town councils or Essex County Council) of local government serving your area.

Who can be a councillor?

You can stand for election for your local council if:

  • You are 18 or over.
  • You are a British, Commonwealth, Irish or European Union citizen.
  • You are registered to vote in the council's area (or if you have lived, worked or owned property in the area for at least 12 months).

You cannot stand for election if:

  • You are bankrupt.
  • You have been sentenced to 3 or more months in prison in the last 5 years.
  • You have been disqualified for corrupt and illegal practices.
  • You are an employee of the council, or if you hold a politically-restricted post in any council.

If you can meet these requirements, and you live in the Colchester City Council area, you can try to become a councillor for:

  • Any ward of Colchester City Council.
  • Any electoral division of Essex County Council.
  • Your local parish or town council (if you have one).

If you want to, and you can get elected, you can be a councillor in all three types of council at once.

What do councillors do?

Councillors help make decisions about the way local services are provided, and how the council tax and government grants are spent. The matters they are involved in depends on the type of council:

  • Colchester City Council provides major local services such as refuse collection and recycling, social housing, planning and development control, economic regeneration, museums, parks and leisure services, cemeteries and crematorium, car parking, food hygiene and environmental protection.
  • Essex County Council provides county-wide services such as schools, libraries, social services, trading standards, planning and development policy, road safety, highway maintenance and civic amenity sites.
  • Parish and Town Councils are consulted by the city and county councils on various matters affecting the local area, such as road and housing developments. They can lobby for improvements to services provided by other organisations, and they also provide some local services such as maintenance of village greens and playgrounds.

Standing for election

The following section tells you how elections are held for the 3 types of councils:

Colchester City Council

Elections for Colchester City Council are held every three out of four years on the first Thursday in May.

Colchester City Council has 51 councillors representing 17 wards. One third of Council (17 Councillors) are elected each year, with no election being held every fourth year, when elections for Essex County Council are held.

Essex County Council

Elections for Essex County Council are held every fourth year. The next election is due in 2017.

Essex County Council is divided into 9 electoral divisions with 1 councillor for each division. There are 9 divisions serving the Colchester area.

Parish and town councils

Parish and town councils have elections every four years on the first Thursday in May.

Parish and town councils vary in size from 5 to 15 councillors depending on the population of the parish. Meetings are normally held once a month.

Some parish and town councils are sub-divided into parish wards. Each parish ward has a separate election and you can only stand in one ward of the parish.

It is common for parish councillors to be elected without a ballot because the number of candidates at an election is not more than the number of vacancies. By increasing the number of candidates you can help to make sure voters get a chance to cast their vote.


By-elections can occur in any ward, division or parish at any time if a councillor resigns or dies. The council must put up a notice in the area to publicise the 'casual' vacancy.

If the councillor's term of office was due to end in less than 6 months, an election cannot be held until the normal day of elections in May. Otherwise an election can be called if a certain number of electors ask for it before the deadline stated in the notice. The number of signatures needed to call an election to fill a vacancy is:

  • 2 for a city or county council vacancy,
  • 10 for a parish or town council vacancy.

Casual vacancies in parish councils are most commonly filled by co-option. If no one calls an election, the council can simply appoint anyone it chooses. Before asking for an election to fill a casual vacancy, you could contact the parish clerk or chairman to ask about being co-opted.

How to become a candidate

The elections office of Colchester City Council manages all local and national elections in the Colchester area. They will put up a Notice of Election at the Town Hall (and in each parish) telling you where and when to apply to be a candidate. For May elections the notice will usually be put up in the middle of March.

To become a candidate you must:

  • Complete a nomination pack available from the electoral services team and submit this by hand, usually at the Town Hall.
  •  As part of the nomination form, you will need to obtain the signature of a proposer and seconder who are registered to vote in the area which you wish to stand as a candidate to represent.
  • Or find 2 electors in your parish (or parish ward) to sign your nomination for the parish or town council.

Political parties

You don't need to be a member of a political party to be a councillor. Anyone can stand as an independent candidate. In parish and town councils it is rare for candidates to stand as party candidates.

For city and county councils, most councillors stand as party candidates (but you don't have to). To stand as a party candidate you must have a certificate from the party nominating officer confirming that you are their candidate.

Helping local democracy

By standing for election, and letting electors know who you are and what you stand for, you are helping local democracy by giving voters a choice. If you get elected, you will know that you have the support of the people who voted for you.

Page last reviewed: 30 May 2023


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