Elections and membership
The term of office of a parish councillor is four years, and councils are elected en bloc by secret ballot, to make a newly constituted council. The legislation provides that the number of elected members of a parish council shall not be less than five. Larger parishes may be divided into parish wards, with separate elections for each ward.
The timing of the election cycle is usually linked to that of the election of a district councillor for the ward containing the parish.
A candidate must be at least one of the following:
- A UK or Commonwealth citizen
- Citizen of the Republic of Ireland
- Citizen of another member state of the European Union
and candidates must state on their consent for nomination form their qualification for election, which must be at least one of the following:
- they are an elector of the parish
- during the whole of the last 12 months they have occupied, either as owner or tenant, land or other premises in the parish.
- their principal or only place of work is in the parish
- they live within 4.8 kilometres (3 miles) of the parish boundary
For more information, see Parish Council elections - guidance for candidates and agents - The electoral Commission website
The chairman of the last council shall remain in office, even if not elected to the newly constituted council, until a new chairman is appointed at the first meeting of the new council.
Where there are an equal number or fewer candidates than there are vacancies, all candidates are elected unopposed, and no poll is taken. Where there are fewer candidates than vacant seats, the parish council has the power to coopt any person or persons to fill the vacancies. This power, however, may only be exercised if there is a quorum of councillors present and within 35 days of the election.
If the parish council fails to fill the vacancies within this period, the district council may dissolve it and order fresh elections. If there is not a quorum elected the district council must dissolve it and order fresh elections.
Where there are more candidates than vacancies, a poll must be held. Undivided parishes, or multi-member parish wards, hold elections under the bloc vote system.
If a vacancy occurs during the term of a parish council, it may be filled by either election or co-option. Elections only occur if, following the advertisement of the vacancy for 14 days, 10 electors send a written request to the returning officer. If no request is received, the parish council will be required to fill the vacancies by co-option. The nomination qualifications required of a candidate for co-option are the same as for those for election.
If the number of vacancies on the parish council is such that there is no longer a quorum, the district council may temporarily appoint persons to bring the council up to strength in the interval prior to an election.