The next Parish Council elections will be held in May 2021.
Purdah is the name given to the period of time prior to an election. It starts from the date of the Publication of Notice of Election and ends on polling day. During this period there are limitations on publicity and information that councils can issue affecting the authority’s area to ensure that this can not be perceived as seeking to influence public opinion.
Please avoid any form of publicity referring to individual councillors, political parties or the election etc. A parish council must remain completely neutral during the election purdah period. Purdah can last until your annual meeting following the elections. More detailed information can be found in the Recommended code of practice for local authority publicity (particularly section 43).
Candidates Standing For Election
Prospective candidates must deliver (recommended) or send by post a valid election nomination paper to the Returning Officer. This form is obtained from the Returning Officer (Telephone 03000 261 212). The parish council clerk can, if they wish, assist with the process by request the requisite number of nomination forms for existing members of their council.
However the emphasis remains with each individual councillor to secure their nomination form, complete and return to the Returning Officer.
The candidate’s surname, forenames, residence and description (if required) must be entered and his or her number and prefix letter from the current register of electors. The Returning Officer has a copy of this register, and the clerk of the local council normally has one.
The nomination paper must also contain similar particulars of a proposer and a seconder. They must be electors for the area for which the candidate seeks election (i.e. the parish, community or town or the ward if it is divided into wards). They must sign it.
An example of an election timetable is shown below. This was the situation for 2017:
- Publication of notice of election: Monday 23 March
- Receipt of nominations: 4:00pm Tuesday 4 April
- Withdrawal of Candidate: 4:00pm Tuesday 4 April
- Publication of Notice of Election Agents: 4:00pm Tuesday 4 April
- Publication of Statements of Persons Nominated: 4:00pm Wednesday 5 April
- Last date for registration: Thursday 13 April
- Receipt of postal vote applications: 5:00pm Tuesday 18 April
- Publish notice of poll: Tuesday 25 April
- Receipt of Proxy Vote Applications: 5:00pm Tuesday 25 April
- Appointment of Poll and Count Agents: Wednesday 26 April
- First day to issue replacement lost postal ballot papers: Thursday 27 April
- Lost or spoilt ballot papers: 12:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday 4 May
- Receipt of Emergency Proxy Vote Applications: 5:00pm Thursday 4 May
- Last day to issue replacement spoilt or lost postal ballot papers: 5:00pm Thursday 4 May
- Day of Poll: 7:00am to 10:00pm Thursday 4 May
- Declaration of candidates expenses: Thursday 8 June
After The Election Process
Once the election process is finished, councillors normally take up their positions four days after the election when outgoing councillors relinquish their positions too. This will be at 00:01 on Monday 8 May.
Declaration of Acceptance of Office
All councillors need to sign a declaration of acceptance of office form before they can sit as a councillor
Registration of Interests
Within 28 days of taking up office, all councillors must complete a Register of Interest Form.
To assist members with the completion of their Register of Interest Forms the DCLG has produced Openness and transparency on personal interests – A guide for councillors.pdf. This is a useful tool for all councillors including parish and town councillors.
A copy of councillors Register of Interest Forms must be forwarded to the Monitoring Officer at County Hall and if a council has a website they must be displayed on the website or the council can provide residents with details of the link to the County Councils website directly from their website.
In an election year a Parish Council must hold its Annual Meeting within 14 days of the day when elected parish councillors take up their position. In a “normal” year the Annual Meeting must be held sometime in May. For 2017 Annual Meetings should have been held between the 8 and 22 of May.
The first item on any Annual Meeting agenda must be the election of a Chairman for the ensuing year and this is a statutory requirement. Immediately, or as soon as possible thereafter, if the council allows, the chairman must sign their Declaration of Acceptance of Office form for this position too.
Your council may have set a precedent to elect a Vice Chairman but their is no legal requirement for this appointment. Most councils will appoint a Vice Chairman to deputise for the Chairman. A Declaration of Acceptance of Office Form is not required for the Vice Chairman.
Insufficent Members following elections
Where insufficient members are elected at an ordinary election but the Parish Council nevertheless has a quorum, the Parish Council can fill the vacancies by co-option (without the need to advertise the vacancy – although CDALC does recommend this) within 35 working days of the election.
Paragraph 12 of Part II of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act provides that three or one third of the total number of parish councillors, whichever is greater, is necessary for a meeting to be quorate. The parish clerk should therefore establish whether or not sufficient parish councillors have been elected to constitute a quorum.
For example, if your parish council has twelve “seats” and four are filled at the election (i.e. four councillors were elected), then, provided that all four councillors attended a parish council meeting, that meeting would be quorate and could function.
If, however, only three “seat” were filled at the election your parish council is inquorate and would not be able to function as parish council.
If there are sufficient councillors in the parish council for a quorum, then, provided all of the elected parish councillors needed to establish the quorum turn up to that meeting, new parish councillors can be co-opted to the council.
The parish clerk should then ensure that the requisite steps are taken in respect of this appointment.
If there are insufficient councillors in the parish council for a quorum, the parish clerk should advise Durham County Council’s Returning Officer that they are inquorate. DCC will also advise the clerk as to the steps that will need to be taken in order to fill the vacancies. This could nvolve running two further election processes to see if a quorum can be achieved and in exceptional circumstances DCC may (by order) appoint persons to fill all or any of the vacancies until other councillors are elected and take up office.
Casual Vacancies Arising After Normal Elections
Casual vacancies which arise after the elections due to disqualification, resignations, deaths etc need to be filled as soon as possible after the vacancy occurs. The process is:
- to advertise in your local area details of your vacancy/election to see if there is a demand for an election. An election can be requested by any ten members of your electorate writing to DCC’s electoral services. This needs to be done within fourteen working days of the vacancy/election notice being released. DCC’s electoral services section should be notified immediately of any vacancies and they will provide you with the necessary notice to distribute around your area.
- If ten members of your electorate request an election you must hold an election and DCC’s Electoral Services section will organise the process for your council but will, unfortunately, invoice your council for the costs of running the election.
- If ten members of your electorate do not come forward to request an election within the specified period then your council is free to fill any vacancy by cooption but you must advertise your vacancy first – see above.
- If a casual vacancy occurs within six months of the date of retirement as a councillor – notice still has to be given, but there is no opportunity for an election to be requested and your council may coopt but is not required to do so. If you choose not to fill the vacancy it will remain vacant until the next ordinary elections. It is important to note that notice of a casual vacancy still has to be given during this period.
For further advice on the election process you will need to contact either CDALC on 03000 269921 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or DCC Electoral Services section on 03000 261212 (email@example.com)