Below is a list of some of the most commonly asked questions, some thoughts from a councillor who reflected on his first 12 months in post, and top tips from other councillors from across the country.
Our regional teams run national induction events in June, and at other times in the year, following local elections, as an opportunity to provide support to new and returning councillors. We have done these for a number of years and they have extremely positive feedback, particularly as an opportunity to ask more experienced councillors about their top tips. Our next free, virtual event is:
National welcome events for newly elected councillors
Tuesday 20 June 2023, 5.30pm – 7.30pm
All newly elected councillors from across the country are invited to attend the LGA’s virtual national welcome event, hosted via zoom. Booking will be available online following the elections on 4 May.
Always respond to your residents' issues promptly, keep them informed and ensure you get out in your community to let them know what you can do for them"
– Councillor Mike Bush, Tendring District Council
Say yes: positions are always coming up on committees, panels and task groups. Your fresh ideas might be exactly what are needed."
– Councillor Kelly Braund, London Borough of Merton
Involve your family and friends. This might include bringing them to community activities such as litter picks and fun days."
– Councillor James Hill, Northampton Borough Council
For at least six months you will feel like you don't know anything. Democratic services were a lifeline during that time."
– Councillor Philippa Hart, South Cambridgeshire District Council
A year in the life...
Councillor Neil Prior – Cabinet Member for Transformation and IT at Pembrokeshire County Council, shares some top tips after being in post for 12 months:
Local government is complex but when you add in ‘code of conduct’ and ‘constitution’ training, and have worked out which scrutiny committee does what, you’ll realise how enormous it really is. So throw yourself into it, but realise that there will come a point when you’ll know where you can best spend your time.
‘The bloody council’
There will be a honeymoon period where council critics will hold high hopes for the future and you can do no wrong, but sooner or later you will be labelled a self-serving, in-it-for-yourself crook and liar. While I’m a fan of social media, there will probably be an online group who have a strong opinion on your actions and will happily share their thoughts on the internet.
You are a potential threat to an established way of working, and other members will want to know if you will support them. On the up side, there are officers and councillors who want to see change and it’s important to work with them. To get things done, you’ll need to build your credibility.
You are a leader of both your community and council. This is more explicit in my case as I am a cabinet member. Finding your feet is not easy but, by being clear in my objectives, building my credibility and by being authentic, I think I’m getting there. I’ve also had to remind myself that leading change is difficult. Pace and process. Local government can be painfully slow. As someone who’s worked in the technology sector, it’s been a challenge to increase the speed of our transformation programme but I’ve been fortunate enough to have some brilliant senior staff to work with.
Depending on your availability and other commitments, you will need to find the balance of your work in the council, on the council, and in your community. You also still have a life and will need to take some downtime.
Expect the unexpected
You’re on call 24 / 7 and you’ll have to deal with wide ranging issues where people genuinely need your help. That’s a big responsibility but incredibly fulfilling, and it’s what people elected you for. They don’t really care about the brilliant contribution you made in scrutiny, they care about the grass being cut and the bins being collected.
Council is theatre
I watch and listen to the more experienced in the chamber for the way they construct their arguments and their timing. And while it’s daunting, it’s important to get on your feet and be part of it.
Fulfilment and purpose. People have put their faith in you to serve them, and this is your priority. It’s critical to remember that you work for them.
It’s a privilege to serve and I’m going to make sure I enjoy it, bring my personality to it, make the most of the experience and do my best.