Why not stand for election?

If you’re sick of reading about councils making mistakes and are always thinking you could do better, local elections take place on Thursday, 7th May. So why not stand for election?

Cheshire East Council is running a series of seminars giving candidates advice on the more serious issues but apart from that all you have to do is put your name forward.

Many candidates stand for a particular party but arguably this is a bad thing: critics often complain that on the bigger parish councils, ie our town councils, decisions are often pre-judged and people vote along party lines.

In the US, local councils are not elected on party lines. People stand as independents and local papers often come out and favour one candidate — over here that never happens because politics is aligned to the Parties right down to grassroots level.

We need more independents!

Standing is simple: to become nominated as a candidate at a local government election in England or Wales, you need to submit a completed set of nomination papers to the returning officer by 4pm on the 19th working day before the poll (we reckon this is the 9th April).

Independent candidates are people who stand for election and are not chosen by a political party. You may be inclined one way or the other or even be a member of a party.

At their most basic, parish councils are the lowest tier in local government. It is the level of government closest to the community, with the district authority (Cheshire East Council) next up in the hierarchy.

While being a councillor on Cheshire East Council is paid, it also means a level of commitment; town and parish councillors are unpaid but probably have less responsibility, though this is changing as powers are devolved. However, as the level of local government closest to the people, parish councils are often the first place people will go with worries or complaints.

If you’re interested in politics it’s thus a good place to start, particularly now with neighbourhood plans coming to the fore, and many parish councils doing important work.

Town councils (effectively still parishes) are getting even busier, taking over town halls and street cleaning, as well as other services from Cheshire East Council.

Obviously the same applies in Staffordshire, where Biddulph Town Council is a larger parish council but other, smaller bodies do exist. The most common topics that parish councils get involved in are planning applications — parishes must be consulted — as well as open spaces, crime prevention (some councils pay for a PCSO) as well as various plans and strategies for the local area.

While parish councils have limited powers they are heavily involved in negotiations and consultations.

Parish councils usually meet once a month for one council meeting. The public is invited.

Town councils also have some committees and a monthly full council.

Councillors can also stand as representatives on various bodies.

Once elected, parish councillors serve for four years.

Most people reading this will be able to stand: you must be a UK citizen (or member of an EU member state), over 18, an elector of the parish, or occupied (as owner or tenant) land or premises in the parish, or have worked in the parish.

Cheshire East Council’s website has useful information and an elections team. Call 01270 685922 or email electoral.information@cheshireeast.gov.uk

Cheshire East Council is also holding briefing seminars for prospective candidates:

  • 23rd February: Crewe, 5.30pm (borough) and 7pm (town and parish);
  • 24th February: Macclesfield, 5.30pm (borough) and 7pm (town and parish);
  • 27th February: Sandbach, 10am (borough) and 11.30am (town and parish);
  • 2nd March: Nantwich, 5.30pm (borough) and 7pm (town and parish);
  • 4th March: Congleton, 5.30pm (borough) and 7pm (town and parish);
  • 5th March: Macclesfield, 5.30pm (borough) and 7pm (town and parish);
  • 6th March: Crewe, 5.30pm (borough) and 7pm (town and parish).

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