|Legislatures by country|
A councillor is a member of a local government council.
In the United Kingdom, all local authorities are overseen by elected councillors.
- Unitary authorities
- County councils and District councils
- Parish, town and community councils
- The Common Council of the City of London (where they are known as aldermen and councilmen)
According to Debrett's Correct Form the English title "Councillor" (often shortened to "Cllr") only applies to elected members of City, Borough or District councils. However, there is no legal basis for this restriction, and in practice the title is applied to all councillors at all levels of local government. Where necessary, parish and county councillors are differentiated by the use of a more full title, such as "Town Councillor" or "County Councillor". The title precedes the holder's rank or title (e.g. "Cllr Dr Jenny Smith" or "Cllr Sir James Smith) and for women only it precedes their title of marital status (e.g. "Cllr Mrs Joan Smith"; rarely "Miss" but never "Ms").
Councillors are typically elected as members of political parties or alternatively as independents. Councils may also co-opt unelected councillors to fill vacancies on the council where insufficient candidates have stood for election, although in practice this is rare outside parish councils. Once elected they are meant to represent all their constituents in the whole authority, and not just those who voted for them or just those in the district or ward they were elected in. They are bound by a code of conduct enforced by standards boards. The 2007 local elections in the UK saw the age limit for councillors fall to 18, leading to younger people standing.
More specialised decision making structures mean councillors are expected to perform a range of different roles, such as; policy overview & scrutiny, executive decision making, political leadership, determining planning applications and community representation.
They enable communities to help themselves and provide a vital link between the local authority and the communities which they serve. Nonexecutive councillors now have more time to focus on improving the communities which they serve, and play more of a role in developing policy and recommending to the Executive, decisions to be made and holding them to account publicly for their decisions, through the scrutiny process, which provides a platform for real issues which affect communities. Issues which can be raised by fellow councillors and members of the public alike, and for in-depth work to be carried out into those issues. A councillor’s role is now one of influence rather than that of power, influencing the decision makers and holding them to account as well as influencing the key stakeholders within their wards. Councillors have a mandate now to lead and identify opportunities for change in a wide range of subjects which affect the communities in which we live, to identify skills and resources within communities and to bring them together for the greater good, this, along with greater emphasis in local government over partnership working with health, police and fire authorities.
The desire for clearer roles and raised standards has been accompanied by an increase in councillor training and development by organisations such as the Improvement and Development Agency, The Local Government Information Unit LGIU and the Local Government Association.
Most councillors are not full-time professionals, although most larger, borough/unitary or county councils do pay them a basic allowance and out-of-pocket expenses. In addition special responsibility allowances are paid to councillors who carry out more senior roles. The basic allowance (and special responsibility allowance) are theoretically paid to compensate councillors for the time spent on council duties, and are classed by the Inland Revenue as a salary. Parish, town or community councillors may, since the Local Government Act 2000, be paid for their services, but most are not.
In Scotland since 2007 councillors have received a salary of £15k as opposed to a series of allowances. These are often topped up by special responsibility allowances.
In particular, the title is used in the following cases.
- City council for U.S. cities that do not use the title of alderman
- Council of the District of Columbia
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Under the Philippine Republic Act No. 7160 (otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991), a councillor is a member of a local council that is the legislative body of the local government unit.
In Finland councillor (neuvos) is the highest possible title of honour which can be granted by the President of Finland. There are several ranks of councillors and they have existed since the Russian Regime. Some examples of different councillors in Finland are as follows:
- Councillor of State: the highest class of the titles of honour; granted to successful statesmen
- Mining Councillor/Trade Councillor/Industry Councillor/Economy Councillor: granted to leading industry figures on different fields of economy
- Councillor of Parliament: granted to successful statesmen
- Office Councillor: granted to leading university figures
- Councillor of Culture/Theatre Councillor/Film Councillor: granted to leading culture figures
- Chamber Councillor: granted for successful officials in the field of local government
In Australia, The Bahamas, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago and other parts of the Commonwealth, as well as in the Republic of Ireland, a councillor or councilor is an elected representative on a local government council.
In the Netherlands, a member of the municipal council is called a gemeenteraadslid or raadslid. Someone out of this group who is elected to serve on the municipal executive is called a wethouder, which is usually translated as "alderman" or "councillor". The Dutch word for mayor is burgemeester. This is expressed in English as "mayor" or "burgomaster". The municipal executive is referred to collectively as the College van Burgemeester en Wethouders.
In Belgium, a member of the municipal council is called a gemeenteraadslid in Dutch, and Conseiller Communal in French. Someone out of this group who is elected to serve on the municipal executive is called a schepen in Dutch or échevin in French. This is usually translated as "alderman" or "councillor" in English. The municipal executive is referred to collectively as the College van Burgemeester en Schepenen ou Collège du Bourgmestre et Echevins.
In Norway, a member of the municipal council, kommunestyret, is called a kommunestyrerepresentant in Norwegian. The Norwegian word for mayor is ordfører.
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- Debrett's Correct Form, pg 193, Headline Book Publishing 2002
- Viser, Matt (7 August 2006). "Spelling spats divide City Council". Boston Globe. Retrieved 7 August 2006.