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How to Become a Councillor

Scottish local government is currently comprised of 1,223 elected members across 32 local authorities. These local authorities are responsible for managing and delivering a wide range of services, from education and social work to leisure and recreation.

West Lothian is made up of nine multi-member wards, returning 33 elected members.

The Improvement Service has produced useful information on the what a councillor does. (opens new window)

Why become a councillor?

You may be motivated by a sense of civic duty and desire to serve your local community, a single issue or a number of different issues. Above all you must believe that you are the person to be a voice for the concerns of the community and to help solve them.  However, you must be aware of the workload involved. 

The role of a councillor 

Councillors play a role in important policy making - identifying the needs of the community, setting objectives to meet those needs, prioritising between differing demands and allocating resources.

The primary role, however, is to represent the interests of local residents. As such they must provide community guidance and leadership, aiding communication between residents and the local authority. The role includes:

Attending full council meetings (in West Lothian these take place approximately every six weeks, on Tuesdays at 10 am) where they vote on specific issues. Get a full breakdown of the council's decision making structure [73KB] .

Holding surgeries on a regular basis (usually in the local town hall/ community centre) to meet face-to-face with constituents. The frequency and variety of locations within the ward is up to each individual councillor to decide.

The Council Executive holds the universal decision-making power within the local authority and is made up of a selection of councillors (along the same lines as the Cabinet in the UK Parliament) If selected it is expected that councillors will attend the executive meetings and vote on policy.

Within this framework there are executive posts such as policy and resources, culture and leisure, development and transport, education, environment, health and care, services for the community, social policy and voluntary organisations. Holders of these executive posts are known as executive portfolio holders (along the same lines as Ministers within the UK Parliament), and as such have an increased workload.

Serving on policy development and scrutiny panels (PDSPs)

These are small groups of councillors who develop new policies for the council, or review existing policies to see if changes are needed. They do not have the power to actually make decisions, but they make recommendations to the Council or Education Executive for them to make decisions which are binding on the council.

Serving on special committees to scrutinise strategic policy and performance

Attending, where appropriate, Community Council meetings. Community councils ascertain and express the views of the community.

Serving on the ward local area committees (LACs)

These act as a forum through which local issues can be discussed between elected members, council officers and the wider community. They facilitate community engagement and allow scrutiny of council policy at local level. Attending local events such as opening ceremonies, gala days, fairs, fundraisers etc. Also councillors attend events run in support of certain interest groups and represent the council on the committees of various outside bodies and voluntary groups. Being available at all times, by phone or email, to address and resolve the individual concerns of their constituents.

How do I become a councillor 

For more information on becoming a councillor visit this Improvement Service website (opens new window)