The next Parish Council elections are expected to be held on 4 May 2017.
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 or send by post a valid election nomination paper to the Returning Officer. This form is obtained from the Returning Officer (Telephone 03000 261212). If you are attending the Elections Training Session on 1 March 2017 you will be provided with the requisite number of nomination forms for your council. If you are not attending they will be available from the electoral Services office (use above phone number)
Clerk can, if they wish, assist with the process by providing access to nomination forms. However it is each individual councillors responsibility to secure their nomination forms, complete and return them 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.
The election timetable for 2017 is shown below
- Publication of notice of election: 23 March 2017
- Receipt of nominations: 4pm on 4 April 2017
- Withdrawal of Candidate: 4pm 4 April 2017
- Publication of Statements of Persons Nominated: 4pm 5 April 2017
- Appointment of election agents: 4pm 4 April 2017
- Last date for registration: 13 April 2017
- Receipt of postal vote applications: 5:00pm 18 April 2017
- Publish notice of poll: not later than 25 April 2017
- Appointment of Poll and Count Agents: 26 April 2017
- First day to issue replacement lost postal ballot papers: 27 April 2017
- Lost or spoilt ballot papers: 5:00pm 4 May 2017
- Receipt of Emergency Proxy Vote Applications: 5:00pm 4 May 2017
- Last day to issue replacement spoilt or lost postal ballot papers: 5:00pm 4 May 2013
- Day of Poll: 7:00am to 10:00pm 4 May 2017
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. For 2017 this will be at 00:01 on 8 May.
Declaration of Acceptance of Office
All councillors need to sign a Declaration of Acceptance of Office before they can sit as a councillor and when you appoint your chairman they must sign a declaration of acceptance of the Chairmans Office.
Registration of Interests
Within 28 days of taking up office, all councillors must complete a Register of Interest Forms for Parish Councillors.
This form contains an “Click to Save” facility which means councillors who have computers can complete this form electronically, should they wish to type up their forms and email them. Instructions for the form are as follows
- Open and fill in form – you can only type in the boxes (users will require Adobe Reader on their PC – a free programme – but the vast majority of PC’s will already have it as standard
- Once complete, click the ‘Save form’ link on the top right hand corner of the form (I’ve tried to make it obvious) – the user will be prompted to save the form on their computer)
- They can either then print and sign the form OR email it to the clerk to print (presumably the clerk will get them to sign)
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. 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 your council has a website they must be displayed on your website or you can provide your residents with details of the link to the County Councils website directly from your 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 AGM’s must 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 – this is a statutory requirement. Immediately, or as soon as possible thereafter, if your council allows, your chairman must sign their Declaration of Acceptance of Office form.
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. For 2017 councils will be able to coopt new members until 23 June. Further details follow.
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 involve 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.
Full details of the election process can be found in the CDALC Members area in the Electoral Arrangements for Parish Councils section of the Legal Topic Notes (under Council Business, Law and Procedure).
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)