Qualifications and disqualifications

In order to become a candidate at a local election for a principal council (Note: ‘principal councils’ are counties, districts, unitaries, metropolitan boroughs and London boroughs) a set of nomination papers must be submitted within the prescribed time period. In order to be eligible to stand for election, a person must be qualified to stand and not be disqualified and you have to complete a declaration as part of the consent to nomination indicating

  1. That you are qualified to stand, and how.
  2. That you are not disqualified in any way.

The returning officer cannot accept your nomination without the accompanying signed declaration however it is not their job to check the veracity of the statements made in the declaration. Conversely to complete the declaration fraudulently risks prosecution for both fraud and electoral offences.

Qualifications required for candidature

To qualify as a candidate for election to a  principal local authority (parish/town councils have separate criteria) a person must satisfy the following criteria on the day they are nominated and on polling day:

  • have attained the age of at least 18 years, and
  • be a British citizen, a qualifying Commonwealth citizen, or a citizen of any other member state of the European Union.

and the candidate must also meet at least one of the following four qualifications on the day they are nominated and on polling day:

  1. A registered local government elector: On the day of nomination and thereafter he/she is a local government elector for the area covered by the local authority in which he is standing (NOT necessarily the ward in which he is standing). In other words, his/her name must be included on the electoral register as current on the day on which he is nominated.  If a candidate only qualifies to stand through the last rolling register update before the election, do check with your elections office to check the date on which the application has be received to ensure it is processed in time, as this may not be the final rolling register update prior to the close of nominations.  (Note: If this is the only qualification given on the nomination form the candidate MUST, if elected, ensure he/she remains on the register for the whole of his term, otherwise he becomes disqualified as a councillor. Therefore to be safe, if someone qualifies in other ways, these should also be included on the form).
  2. Owner or tenant:  He has for the whole 12 months before nomination date and election day, occupied as owner or tenant, land or property anywhere in the area of that local authority.
  3. Principal or only place of work:  His main, or only workplace during the 12 months prior to nomination day and election day has been within the area of the local authority. (Note, courts have ruled that retired or unemployed people who spend their work time serving as a councillor are qualified under this heading.  The Electoral Commission has also advised us that someone who has worked purely within the area of the local authority concerned whether continuously or with a break in their work does qualify, however if they have also worked in another local authority area for any part of that 12 month period then they no longer qualify under this rule.)
  4. Residence:  For the whole of the 12 months prior to nomination day and election day he has resided in the area of the local authority. (This need not necessarily be at the same address throughout.)

Points to note:

  • Most candidates qualify on more than one of the above grounds. If so, for safety, they should indicate on the form all the ways in which they qualify.
  • The area in which a candidate needs to live, work or own land in is the ‘electoral area’, i.e. the whole local authority (county/borough etc.) in which the seat for which he is nominated is placed and not the specific ward or division which he intends to contest.
  • Interpretation of “work”, “own land”, “reside” are quite complex and if in doubt you should check with ALDC. Check in good time before the deadline for submitting nomination papers.

Parish Councils in England / Community Councils in Wales

The same rules apply as for principal councils other than that the residency qualification is extended to allow those who have lived in the parish or within 4.8km (approximately three miles) of its boundary for at least the last 12 months, to stand.

Disqualifications

Certain people are disqualified from being elected to a local authority. A person cannot be a candidate if at the time of their nomination or their election they are in one of the following categories:

  1. Bankrupts:  They are the subject of a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order or Interim Order in England or Wales, have been adjudged bankrupt in Northern Ireland, or have had their estate sequestrated in Scotland. The law on this changed in 2002; previously there was a more widely defined ban. Those who were declared bankrupt before the amendments to the bankruptcy disqualifications following commencement of the Enterprise Act 2002 and who are not in receipt of a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order are not disqualified from standing. People who were the subject of a Bankruptcy Restrictions Order prior to 1 April 2004, provided they have their discharge, are not disqualified from standing.  People who have an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) are not disqualified from standing.
  2. Imprisoned:  If convicted in the UK, Isle of Man or Channel Islands within five years of the day of the election (i.e. for the 2010 elections since 6 May 2005) and sentenced to three months (including a suspended sentence) or more without the option of a fine.
  3. Corrupt and illegal practices:  A person may also be disqualified from election if they have been convicted or reported guilty of a corrupt or illegal practice by an election court, or if they have been disqualified from standing for election to a local authority following a decision of the Adjudication Panel for England (the standards board). Seek detailed advice if this may apply.  Also disqualified are those who are specifically disqualified under Part III of the RPA 1983 (which relates to donations and other offences) or under the Audit Commission Act 1998.
  4. Surcharged:  Councillors or ex-councillors who have been subject to a District Auditor’s surcharge may be subject to disqualification from any local authority. This should always be checked with ALDC.
  5. Employees of Councils:  Employees cannot stand for election to the council that employs them, but can stand for a different authority provided they do not have a Politically Restricted post (see below). The restriction also applies to employment under the jurisdiction of a committee on which the local authority is represented  e.g. . national park authority. If a candidate is in doubt about their position, they should seek advice from the human resources department of the local authority in question.  In recent years this has become increasingly problematic as the influence of local government permeates the many partnerships that they are involved in. The issue is not whether an individual does work commissioned by the council  – say for a voluntary group  – but whether the council is represented on the board/ committee where his/her appointment is made or confirmed.
  6. Teachers:  Teachers are an especially complex case. In Unitaries or Metropolitan councils they are disqualified, but in districts where the County Council runs education they may stand for the District Council. There have also been some cases where supply teachers employed by an agency rather than the authority itself have been allowed to stand. Sixth form college teachers are not disqualified. The above employment disqualifications apply only within the authority for whom the candidate works.
  7. Holders of Politically Restricted Posts:  These disqualify the holder from standing for any local authority, not just the one in which the post is held. The purpose is to restrict interference at the ‘Town Hall’. The following are ‘politically restricted’:
  • Specified posts designated by the employing Council (usually top management such as the Head of Paid Service or Statutory Chief Officer, or other senior managers or staff who regularly advise members, for example).).
  • Posts which are authorised to discharge a function of the Council (usually Chief Officers).
  • Politically sensitive’ posts. These automatically include  ‘Administrative, Professional, Technical and Clerical’ Spinal Column Point 44 (or higher). This definition applies to part time posts as well as full time. Posts lower than these grades may also be included if deemed politically sensitive, usually on the grounds that the job entails giving advice to Council or Council Committees or regularly speaking on behalf of the Council to the media.
  • Political Assistants appointed under the Local Government and Housing Act (regardless of salary).
  • The Greater London Authority is regarded as a local authority for the purposes of this section so a politically restricted post held within the GLA would disqualify from membership of a local authority.

A person who would be disqualified by reason of their employment (see above) must have resigned and served any notice period before the date of nomination to avoid having a contract of employment in a relevant job at the relevant time.

Some employers contractually prevent their employees standing for the council e.g.  the armed forces.  This is not a legal disqualification but a contractual one. There is nothing to stop the individual standing, they just risk being sacked by their employer, and so it is important to check your contract if this may be the case.

Parish and Community Councils

The disqualifications as regards bankruptcy, imprisonment etc listed above would apply to candidates for Parish Councils.  Employees of a Parish will also be restricted.

As regards politically restricted posts, there are certain circumstances in which a politically restricted officer can stand for election to a Parish Council.  However their political role may still be subject to restrictions.  In this situation it is advisable to contact ALDC for advice.

Mayoral elections

Generally, the same rules apply as for Principal Councils but you should in particular double-check the details of what jobs disqualify someone (see above).

Disqualification is a complex area and if you think a potential candidate may be disqualified, you are advised to check with ALDC.
Getting your candidate nominated
A completed set of nomination paperwork will include:

  • one or more nomination papers
  • candidate’s consent to nomination
  • form for the appointment of the agent
  • DNO paperwork (for use of party name/logo)

Most Returning Officers will supply forms, but some may expect you to supply your own. You should always use the party’s own DNO paperwork.

Useful external links

Electoral Commission: www.electoralcommission.org.uk

Can you help?

Have you got any examples of court cases where particularly the work qualification is further refined?
Written by John Bridges September 2010
Last updated 9 February 2011


Comments
Kate Thacker says

Can you remain in office as a district Councillor if you have not paid your Council Tax to the same authority?

James Baker says

So long as you have not been sentenced to more than three months in prison for non-payment of Council Tax then yes. They couldn't however vote to set the budget. Also it might hinder their chances of being re-elected.

Angela Hallam-Baker says

Can an elected county councillor continue his/her membership of a county council if he/she has subsequently moved out of the UK?

Ed Stephenson says

Hi Angela,

Yes so long as they remain qualified. Which will depend on which qualifications they ticked on their forms when being nominated (Elections Offices will not always store these for very long). If the qualification they ticked is no longer valid or they no longer meet any of the qualifications then they cannot remain a councillor.

Obviously politically the leaflets write themselves either way.

Timothy lawrence says

I am in the military (Royal Navy) and would like to support my local community as a parish councillor as we are short of two people on the council in a very small parish.

Can I become a parish councillor and what do I need to do to ensure everything is correct?

This is not political but purely to support a very small parish (Hordley, Shropshire).

Thank you

Ed Stephenson says

Hi Timothy,

In the first instance speak to the parish clerk as you will likely just be co-opted on to the Council.

I'm sure they will be happy to have someone of your skill set!

Thanks,

Ed Stephenson

Graeme Hatch says

Can a person be a councillor for both a unitary authority and a town council?

Victoria Adshead says

Someone is on the ballot paper for Tarporley Ward local election on 2nd May but they are moving 200 miles away in the next 2 months. Is this allowed?

Richard Beck says

In an election there are 10 nominees per candidate. Can a candidate himself be one of these nominees?

Caroline Page says

Can you be disqualified from being a parish councillor if you work in a civilian capacity (Comms) for the county police force?

Ross Harrison says

Can a learning support assistant (LSA/TA) of an LA-maintained school be a councillor in the LA of their school?

Emma says

Can a parish council consist of more than one family member?
For example can a mother and son be chairman and parish clerk?

Richard Cole says

Graeme

Yes, you can be on a unitary council and a town council.

Victoria

If they were validly nominated, yes.

Richard

Yes, they can.

Caroline

No. A serving Police Officer can't be a councillor but this does not count for support staff.

Ross

No, you can't be a councillor for a LA that employs your directly or indirectly.

Richard Cole says

Emma

There are no restrictions on different family members being elected members of the same council. If a relative of a councillor is employed as a member of staff that councillor should declare an interest and refrain from involvement in appointment and staffing issues in relation to that member of staff.

Phil Pope says

if someone works for the council, is it okay for them to be selected by a political party as their prospective candidate, so long as they resign from their job before completing the official nomination papers?

Mary says

Just double checking, it is possible to be both a DE Mayoral candidate and a unitary Council Candidate?

With one potentially being a non-target role and the other a target.

reece says

Hi can police operational support staff allowed to become Town Councillors?

Michael Walker says

Can I be both a councillor for a unitary ward in Chippenham and be a parish councillor at the same time?

Elizabeth says

Can a husband and wife both be councillors for the same ward?

Gareth Lloyd-Johnson says

Hi Elizabeth,

Yes, they can.

Elizabeth says

Thank you Gareth for answering but that surprises me as a husband and wife team up together and act as one so, in our ward, the husband and wife cover up for each other so I believe we are under-represented.

Nicole says

Can a person be elected as a councillor in two separate unitary authorities at the same time ?

Gareth Lloyd-Johnson says

HI Nicole,

In theory, yes this is possible.

Kind regards,

Gareth

Nora Warnaby says

Is there an upper age limit for a paper candidate standing in local city council elections.

Chris Twells says

Hi Nora - no upper age limit at all, indeed the Conservatives fielded a 96 year old candidate in Newcastle in 2018!

https://news.sky.com/story/96-year-old-tory-candidate-in-newcastle-could-become-uks-oldest-councillor-11354941

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