Wealden District Council

Do you want to be a Councillor?

Do you want to make a difference?

What matters to you in your local area? Whatever needs changing in your community, you could be just the person to make a positive difference by becoming a Local Councillor and Community Leader. Perhaps you are already involved in local community projects or organisations and want to take the next step, or you may be looking for a worthwhile and rewarding way to help your community.

If elected, you will be in a position to make a difference to the quality of other people's daily lives and prospects. Although being a Councillor requires hard work and commitment, it is a privilege and a rewarding form of public service. This page will help you decide whether to stand to be a District Councillor in the next election.

If you wish to stand for election you must be:

  • A British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of another European State.
  • 18 years of age or over at the date of nomination.
  • Included on the Register of Electors for the Wealden District or be someone who has either lived or worked in the area for the whole of the 12 months before nomination.

You cannot stand if:

  • You are employed by Wealden District Council.
  • You are bankrupt.
  • You have been given a prison sentence of three months or more (even if the sentence was suspended) in the last five years.
  • You have been disqualified from standing by a court or tribunal.

We need people from all walks of life, with a wide range of experiences to best represent the Wealden Community as a whole as a Community Leader.

People with disabilities are currently under represented in public and political life; at the moment only 10 percent of local councillors have a declared disability or long term impairment, compared with about 14 percent in 2010.

Further information can be obtained by visiting the Local Government Association website (external link)

No. You can choose to stand as a candidate of a registered political party or as an independent candidate. If you decide you would like to have the backing of a recognised political party you will have to be selected as the party's candidate for a ward before you can stand for election. You can find your local association or local constituency party office on line. If you chose to stand as an Independent Councillor, you can submit your nomination papers directly to the Councils Returning Officer.

The Council's Corporate Plan 2015-19 details the Vision for Wealden and sets out the ambitions to continue to meet and anticipate the needs and wishes of it's communities as they change and grow.

The Council will listen, learn and lead so that Wealden people, businesses and visitors can thrive and prosper.

The ambitions will be delivered by the Council being lean, efficient and having firm budgetary control.

View the Council's Corporate Plan 2015-19 which sets out its direction and priorities for the next four years.

Wealden Your District

Wealden is the largest district in East Sussex covering 323 square miles (83502 hectares) and is home to154,600 people (2014 based projections). Two thirds of the District is designated an a Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are 34 conservation areas and it has the largest amount of ancient woodland of any district in the country.

The Ashdown Forest falls completely within the north of the District and part of the south of the District is in the South Downs National Park.

One half of our population is located in the five main towns of Crowborough, Hailsham, Heathfield, Polegate and Uckfield, with the remainder divided among 37 rural parishes.

Wealden had 8,070 businesses in 2015. Small and micro-businesses form a fundamental part of the Wealden economy with 91% approx. of businesses in Wealden employing less than 9 people.

There are two distinct structures of local government:

  • Unitary: a single tier structure where an all-purpose principal authority is responsible for providing most of the services such as Brighton and Hove City Council. This may have some Town or Parish Councils providing a lower local tier.
  • County/District: comprising at least two levels, often with a third tier of town/parish councils, and found in the remaining shire counties in England.

What do we do?

Wealden District Council is part of a County/District structure and delivers a wide range of services everyday to residents and local businesses through face to face contact, on-line access 24/7, on the phone, and in partnership with other organisations. The District Council is responsible for the provision of:

  • Planning and Building Control
  • Council Tax, Council Tax Benefit and Business Rates
  • Environmental Health
  • Leisure Services
  • Business and Tourism Support
  • Housing and Housing Benefit
  • Elections
  • Land Charges
  • Waste Collection and Recycling
  • Car Parking

East Sussex County Council based in Lewes is responsible for the following services:

  • Roads Maintenance
  • Education
  • Libraries
  • Trading Standards
  • Transport and Traffic Safety
  • Adult Social Care
  • Waste Disposal
  • Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • The Town and Parish Councils usually have the responsibility for the following services:

  • Allotments
  • Street Lighting
  • Bus Shelters
  • Cemeteries
  • Play areas and and recreation grounds
  • Removal of graffiti
  • Dog hygiene bins
  • Grit bins
  • Cabinet 

    Made up of the Leader, Deputy Leader and up to five other councillors. It can make certain decisions without requiring further approval and some decisions are delegated to individual Cabinet members. Each Cabinet member has a specific portfolio of work that they are responsible for.

    Scrutiny Committee 

    The Overview and Scrutiny Committee is made up of 15 Councillors. This Committee provides a check on the activities of the Cabinet, helps develop policy, carries out scrutiny reviews, challenges Cabinet decisions through the 'call-in' process, and provide scrutiny of external bodies.

    Audit and Finance Committee

    The Audit and Finance Committee is made up of 10 Councillors. The Committee monitors the Council's financial decisions including the Council's budget, borrowing, asset and audit functions.

    Planning Committees 

    There are two Planning Committees, Planning Committee North and Planning Committee South - each committee is made up of 12 councillors. These Committees exercise powers and duties relating to town and country planning and building control issues including determining applications.

    Personnel Committee 

    Is made up of 7 Councillors. This Committee principally deals with staff terms and conditions

    Licensing Committee 

    Is made up of 15 Councillors. This Committee appoints a Sub-Committee to determine licensing applications.

    Standards Committee 

    Is made up of 7 District Councillors 3 Parish Councillors and 2 Independent persons. This Committee oversees the upholding of good standards of conduct by District and Parish Councillors.

    The knowledge and life experience you have gained

    Both personally and professionally is important, as is caring about the future of your local community. Although you do not need any formal qualifications to be a councillor, having or being able to develop the following skills, knowledge and attributes will help you in your role:

    Communication

    Being able to listen to and, in turn, express the views of your community, being able to accept and mediate between opposing points of view, being comfortable with public speaking and keeping your residents informed about Council policies and initiatives are all valuable communication skills.

    Team Working

    You will be working with others both out in the community and on Full Council or its Committees. Being able to complete any tasks that you agree to do on time and understanding your goals in order to be able to achieve them will be important.

    Organisation

    Planning and time management, multi tasking, keeping appointments and meeting deadlines.

    Problem solving

    The ability to understand the crux of an issue, and identify different resolutions is important to the role of a Councillor, as well as being able to view things critically.

    Engage with your local Community

    You will need to be accessible through a wide range of meetings, public forums, debates, on the phone, face to face at ward surgeries, and through various forms of media such as the press and social media. You may also already have experience in dealing with local groups with a specific interest or need.

     

    Leading your community

    Working as its representative and being a voice for constituents who otherwise may not be heard. You will be approached by residents with a wide range of issues and problems. You will get involved with local groups and community projects who will look to you for guidance and help. You may also find yourself campaigning for an individual on a particular issue. Using the Council's policies and procedures you will be able to improve the well-being of your constituents.

    Making and influencing Policy

    By preparing for, and attending Council meetings you will have a direct influence on the policies which shape the quality of local services. You will be expected to promote the Council's vision whilst also scrutinising decisions the Council has made. Public interest will be at the heart of your decision and policy making.

    Being a responsible Ward Member 

    You may be a single representative or join other Councillors in a multi-represented ward. You will be expected to engage with residents by attending Parish Council meetings or through ward, surgeries, emails and phone calls. There will be difficult decisions to make as residents are often divided on local issues and you will be expected to explain the actions of the Council. By remaining impartial and following the Council's procedures you will be able to make a positive difference.

    How do I help my constituents?

    A key part of your role as a Councillor is to represent your ward and the individual citizens who live in it. You are the bridge between the community and the Council. You will be contacted by your constituents with requests for help and you are likely to receive a lot of post, emails and phone calls. In terms of helping your constituents with their problems, you are not expected to be familiar with every single detail across the whole range of policies and services. Your job is to represent their concerns to the Council and try to get the problem solved.

    You will not be able to solve every single problem but you should be able to make a difference for many of those who request your help. However, you should bear in mind that many people contact their local Councillor for help on issues that are not the responsibility of the local authority. In these cases you will try to put people in touch with other relevant agencies which can help.

    Which Committees will I be sitting on?

    The proportion of seats each political group gets on each committee is determined by the number of group members they may have (called political balance). Provisions exist to protect the entitlement of independent members. The Group Leaders then appoint councillors to those seats. This is all agreed at the annual meeting of the Full Council, which is normally held in May each year.

    How will I know what is being discussed at a Committee Meeting?

    By law, a Public Notice of a meeting with its date, time, venue and agenda must be posted publicly five clear working days before a meeting takes place. The agendas for meetings will be sent to the committee members at the same time and an email sent to all councillors. If there are any issues of interest to, or of concern to you and your ward and you are not a member of that committee, you can attend the meeting as an observer. You can also ask to speak but you can only vote if you are a member of the committee.

    What training will I receive?

    There will be induction sessions for newly elected councillors and further training for all councillors relating to the Council's services over the following six months. As well as this the Council will continue to support councillors' development needs during the term of office and you will be asked to complete a training needs analysis to help shape this process. Councillor support is provided by the Democratic Services team.

    Where do I go if I need advice on the Council's services?

    You can receive advice and guidance from a number of sources. You will be provided with contact details for all the Council's departments and can contact them directly. You can also liaise with more experienced councillors who will be able to assist. Finally, you can always contact Democratic Services who will either provide the advice needed or help direct you to where you can get the information.

    Will I represent the Council on any other organisations?

    The Council has a number of positions on other organisations which are collectively referred to as 'Outside Bodies'. Appointments to these outside bodies are made every two years at the Annual meeting of Full Council. If you are interested in any of these, you should talk to your group leader.

    Can I have time off from work to attend Council meetings?

    Yes. By law, if you are employed you are entitled to reasonable time-off to fulfil your role as a Councillor, although your employer does not have to give you paid time off. What is reasonable time off is not defined and will depend upon a number of factors, so you will need to talk with your employer about this.

    What am I allowed to claim expenses for?

    You will be entitled to a basic allowance that is paid in monthly instalments which reimburses costs you incur by doing Council business. You can claim for travelling to and from a committee meeting of which you are a member, Cabinet meetings and training sessions. You can also claim for travelling to and from Parish Council meetings held in your area of which you are not a member and for representing the Council at external meetings. There is also a childcare and dependants' carers allowance for attendance at meetings. Claims must be submitted on the correct claim form within three months of the expenditure being incurred.

    Wealden Allowances Scheme for 2016/17

     Allowances are reviewed annually on 1st April

    (1) Basic Allowance - £4,386 (paid to all Councillors)

    (2) Special Responsibility Allowances (paid in addition to the Basic Allowance):

    (a) Cabinet Member - £5,307;

    (b) Overview & Scrutiny Chairman - £3,588;

    (c) Audit & Finance Chairman - £3,588;

    (d) Licensing Chairman - £1,302;

    (e) Planning Committee Chairmen - £4,005;

    (f) Deputy Planning Committee Chairmen £1,338;

    (g) Chairman of the Council - £4,551;

    (h) Vice-Chairman of the Council - £1,122;

    (i) Leader of the Council - £12,834;

    (j) Minority Group Leaders - no change from £1,020 plus £164 per member but group has to be 5 members or more;

    (k) Leader or spokesperson of Minority Group with less than five members where no other SRA is paid to a minority group leader - £363;

    (l) Standards Chairman - £1302;

    (m) Independent Persons on Standards Committee - £783;

    (n) Personnel Chairman - £2,679.

    (3) Travel, and Subsistence Allowance - 45p per mile;

    (4) Child Carer's Allowance - up to £8 per hour;

    (5) Elderly/Dependents Carer's Allowance - up to £12 per hour.

    How will the Council communicate with me?

    The Council relies on IT and electronic means of communication both internally and with the public. As the public increasingly expects to be able to contact their local representatives by email, Councillors will be expected to have to use email and the internet. The Council will provide all Councillors with an official email address which is to be used for all Council business and which will be published on the Council's website.

    Councillors will also be provided with access to relevant Council IT Systems and electronic information. Councillors are emailed a 'Councillors' Bulletin' each week and this includes articles of interest and important information relevant to all Councillors. 

    All newly elected Councillors will be given a copy of Local Government and Development Councillors Guide which is also available online at local.gov.uk (external link)

    View or download more information on how to become a councillor (pdf)

    Council Structure

    The Council has 55 District Councillors elected in 35 Wards. There are also 35 Parish Councils, 4 Town Councils and 3 Parish Meetings within the District and 14 County Councillors. The District is divided into four Parliamentary constituencies and is part of the South East Region for the European Parliament.

    Elections are held every four years for all seats, the next Election is May 2019.  Following a review by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, the Council size will be reduced to 45 at the next elections in 2019.

    Political Composition of the Council

    • Conservatives 49
    • Independent Democrats 4
    • Independent 2

    The Conservative Group has overall control of the Council.

    Who's Who

    The Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Leader of the Council are appointed on an yearly basis at the Annual Meeting of the Council usually held in May.

    Contact Democratic Services