Elections for Totnes Town Councillors are held every four years, with the next elections due to take place in 2023, however vacancies can arise during this term. When a vacancy comes up public notices will be produced. Firstly, the public are asked if they wish for an election to take place, with 10 signatures or more required from residents in the ward (the area of the town which the Councillor represents, so either Totnes Town or Bridgetown) for the election to go ahead. If there is no request for an election then a public notice is issued inviting those interested in becoming a Councillor to contact the Clerk, the applications are then reviewed by the Council and a new councillor is ‘co-opted’.
So what is the role of a town council? Totnes Town Council acts as a voice for the local community and can draw attention to issues of concern with the authorities or at district level. Totnes Town Council also has a civic role (performed by the Mayor), provides a civic space in terms of funding the maintenance and running costs for the Civic Hall, and determines its own tourism policy and approach. Totnes Town Council is consulted by South Hams District Council (SHDC) on planning applications and through the Planning Committee the Council provides comments, although the final planning decision rests with SHDC. Totnes Town Council can award grants to community projects or facilities, for example, Caring Town Partnership, Citizens Advice and various cultural events, as well as organising the Christmas festival evenings, community events such as the Community Arts Day, pursuing climate emergency projects and encouraging green travel initiatives.
As a Councillor you are obliged to attend at least two monthly meetings – Full Council which is held on the first Monday of every month, and a Committee meeting (again held on a Monday evening). There are also a number of working groups that you can get involved in depending on your interests which are mostly held during the day.
Town Councils work best when the Council works as a team and the National Association of Local Councils encourages party politics to be put to one side even though you may represent a political group. Individuals are also expected to conduct their Councillor role according to the seven principles of public life know as the ‘Nolan Principles’ which are: selflessness; integrity; objectivity; accountability; openness, honesty; and leadership.
For more information have a read of ‘The Good Councillor Guide’.