Time to fill those empty seats

Local elections are already fading into the past but some parish councils are still facing the reality of not having a full quota of members.

A notice of vacancies on the village noticeboard may be enough to elicit a response, and willing volunteers are always the best volunteers, but there is no rule against parish councillors making approaches to suitable residents.

As we are within six months of an election, an election to fill vacancies is not required. Councils have their own rules for co-option, but best practice, in the event of more than one person being available for a vacant seat, is for the council to conduct interviews before making an agreed choice, and for vacancies to be filled as soon as possible.

So now is the time to be considering co-opting members of the community who will be most useful to your council.

Remember that not everyone is as familiar as you may be with the role of a parish councillor. They may be concerned that they are not very politically aware, or that the responsibilities of being a councillor will be hugely demanding of their time and energies.

They may need your help in pointing out the differences between being a county or borough councillor and a parish councillor, and reassurance that despite being less onerous, what happens at grass roots level really matters.

Most parish council meetings are held in the evening, so accommodate the demands of those with families and jobs to go to. They perhaps need an assurance that the workload will not be a burden and, although there will be some training requirement and some paperwork to go through, this is also not excessive.

Of course, co-opting means they will not have to endure an election and so don’t have to campaign or face the possibility of rejection – at least not for the next four-year term.

Co-opting cuts both ways – the council should seek to recruit those who have the most to offer. You may, for instance, know someone with a particular skill set which would benefit the council, perhaps someone working in finance, IT or HR.

Having said that there is no benefit better than someone who is caring and passionate about where they live and the community they share it with and who wants to make a positive difference.