- What is a local council?
- What does a local council do?
- Where does a local council get its money from?
- How are local councils organised in Wales?
- What power does the local council have?
- Local councillors
- How do I become a local councillor?
- Local Elections
- How to vote?
- How do I contact my local councillor?
What is a local council?
What does a local council do?
A local council is responsible for providing it's local area with a range of different services and facilities such as;
- Maintaining and developing new housing
- Education Services
- Environmental health
- Recycling schemes
- Refuse collection
- Leisure centres and other recreation facilities
- Local Transport
- Parks and public places
- Home services
- Local planning
- Road works
- Public bus routes
- Cycle lanes
- Street lights
- Street cleaning
- Social services
- Schools and some colleges
- Fostering and adoption services
- Adult learning centres
- Play schemes
- Local events
Over two million people in the UK work for their local council and councils in Wales provide over 164,000 services. Welsh local councils also currently employ over 150,000 people, making them one of the country's largest employers.
Where does a local council get its money from?
Local councils spend billions of pounds every year in order to provide us with local services. This money is received from the UK Government, business rates and from council tax. Welsh local councils receive their money from the Welsh Assembly Government in Cardiff which in turn receives its money from the UK Government in Westminster. Welsh councils are currently responsible for spending £4 billion of public money given to them by the Welsh Assembly.
How are local councils organised in Wales?
Wales is split into 22 unitary authorities. Within these areas there are nine counties, ten county boroughs, one city and two areas which qualify as cities and counties.
Each of these principal areas has its own local council to look after it. These principal areas are further split into communities. Some communities serve quite large towns such as Barry and therefore have their own mini-councils who report to the area's main local council. Other communities have such small populations they hold community meetings instead where members of the public are welcome to attend and discuss local issues.
Wales is further split into different areas in regard to police services. These are;
- North Wales Police
- Dyfed-Powys Police
- South Wales Police
- Gwent Police
Wales is also split into different areas with regard to fire service areas. These include;
- North Wales Fire and Rescue Service
- Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service
- South Wales Fire and Rescue Service
Local councils in England and Wales can be structured in three different ways;
- A leader and a cabinet of councillors. Local councillors elect a council leader and he or she then appoints councillors into a cabinet. Each cabinet member is then responsible for particular matters in that area such as Health, Education and Transport.
- A Mayor and a cabinet. The public vote for a Mayor who in turn chooses a cabinet of councillors to deal with local matters.
- A system of local committees. Councillors divide the work of an entire council area which is then dealt with by different committees.
What power does the local council have?
Local councils have a wide range of powers and duties. National policy is set by UK Government, but local councils are responsible for all day-to-day services and local matters.
Local Government does have a significant degree of freedom over what they spend their money on because most of the money they receive from UK Government doesn't have to be spent on specific areas. This means local councils can spend a lot of their money on things they think their local areas need most.
Each of the 22 local councils in Wales has exactly the same powers. These came into being when MPs in Westminster passed the Local Government (Wales) Act 1 April 1994.
Local councils have to work within certain rules made by UK Government. Some services local councils provide are mandatory and some aren't, which means a local council can choose not to provide certain services it deems unnecessary.
In certain cases, UK Government ministers have powers to ensure local councils meet consistent standards within local areas in order to safeguard public health or to protect the rights of individual citizens. If local councils exceed their powers, they are regarded as acting outside the law and can be challenged in court.
Areas, such as the council tax system, benefits, trading standards and police remain UK Government responsibilities, and are not dealt with by local councils.
Councillors are elected by the public in local elections to represent their needs. They are usually chosen by the public based on their ideas on how money from the UK Government would be best spent in that local area. Having been elected, councillors are responsible for making decisions on behalf of their local community about local services such as land use, refuse collection and leisure facilities. There are currently over 1200 councillors serving in Wales and each one is usually a councillor for four years before having to be re-elected.
Local councillors aren't paid a wage because councillors aren't employees of the council. They are however, given a basic allowance to compensate for their time and they can also claim expenses such as travel. Higher posts within the council, such as senior office holders are given a 'Special Responsibilities Allowance' in order to recognise their extra responsibilities.
How do I become a local councillor?
In order to become a local councillor you must meet the following criteria;
- You must be aged 18 or over
- You must be a Commonwealth citizen or a Citizen of an European Council Member State
- You must be registered to vote within your local authority or have occupied land or premises, or lived or worked in the local authority for at least 12 months before the nomination
You cannot become a councillor if you are;
- Already employed by your local council
- Been imprisoned for more than three months in the past five years
If you are a suitable candidate someone in your county will need to officially propose for you to run for councillor. This should then be seconded and supported by another eight electors who live in the ward you intend to represent.
You don't need any formal qualifications or experience of local government to become a councillor. You don't need to be in employment or a member of a political party, and you won't receive a job description if you do become a local councillor.
Councillors are elected during local elections which take place every four years on the first Thursday in May. The electoral system used is called First Past the Post and is the same as the one used in General Elections.
How to vote?
During a local election you will receive a ballot paper listing all council candidates in your area. You will be asked to choose one name by placing a mark in the box opposite your chosen candidate. Some areas will ask you to choose more than one candidate, it depends where you live. You can vote at your nearest polling station which you'll find by contacting your local council or you can apply to vote by post or by proxy.
How do I contact my local councillor?
To find out who your local councillors are visit www.direct.gov.uk. If you have any questions or queries regarding any of the topics discussed or think your local councillor could help you visit www.writetothem.com where you can write to your local councillors, MPs and Welsh Assembly Members for free. The Yellow Pages or your phone book will also have the address and phone number of your local council offices.