Councils are made up of members – called councillors - who together represent the people in their jurisdiction. Councillors are directly elected to represent the people and therefore have to consider not just the interests of their local electorate, but those throughout the whole shire, to create a harmonious local environment. People of any political or religious persuasion are eligible to become councillors, although their personal views should not extend into their council work. Every service provided by a council is managed in their name.
Members of the councils have a complex role and must act in a number of capacities: as committee member, constituency representative and party activist. Councillors have personal, individual and collective responsibilities for their council’s activities. In addition, as members of political groups or as independents, councillors will express political values and support the policies of the group to which they belong. Individual councillors do not have the authority to make decisions on behalf of the entire council. Councillors who are committee chairs or portfolio holders have more specialised roles in promoting particular policies, representing the council while at the same time working with other agencies to tackle issues such as housing, social services, schools, the environment and transport.
The Changing Role of a Councillor
The majority of councils have adopted the structure of a leader and cabinet, often known as The Executive. Several local councillors will be elected to serve in the Cabinet and to take part in the decision making process at this level. These members of local government are usually full-time politicians. Their role is to propose a policy framework and to ensure the implementation of those policies within that framework
Councillors that are not a part of the Executive will conduct the majority of business through the committee structure (or sub committees). Each is a member of at least one or two of these committees and some of its sub committees. Decisions are made by majority vote. Once the decision is made on a particular policy, it will then be put forward to the Executive members of the council for discussion and approval. The point of having an Executive, separate from the rest of the council, is to ensure a fast and fair decision-making process. Those who are not members of the Executive have the option to scrutinise those policy decisions and / or suggest improvements. As the majority of council committee members carry out their duties on a voluntary or part-time basis, the council employs a permanent workforce of professional, administrative and manual staff.
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