Councillors, often referred to as members meaning members of the council, are elected by the people of South Tyneside, to oversee the running of the borough on their behalf.
There are 3 councillors for each of the 18 wards in the borough, making 54 councillors in all. Every councillor serves for a term of 4 years before having to either put themselves up for re-election or retire. Elections are held in 3 out of every 4 years and a third of the places on the council are contested in each of these 3 years.
Councillors are not employees of the council and would have to resign as a councillor if they became an employee of the council. Many councillors have full-time jobs and their council work is done in their spare time.
What do councillors do?
Councillors are the elected representatives of the people. They can have different roles:
Some councillors are members of the cabinet. It is these councillors who are responsible for taking most of the important decisions that have to be made. They do this at cabinet meetings, with the benefit of written reports and advice given to them by relevant senior officers of the council.
Other councillors serve on committees dealing with specific functions of the council. For example, there is a Planning Committee, which deals with contentious planning applications and there is Pensions Committee which oversees the running of the Tyne and Wear Pensions Fund.
With the exception of the Mayor, those councillors who are not members of the cabinet can be members of a scrutiny committee. These committees scrutinise decisions of the executive and carry out detailed research and investigation into specific issues to assist the council in developing its policies and service delivery.
Councillors have a duty to their constituents, including those who did not vote for them. They will take up queries and problems with the council on behalf of constituents and generally try to assist them in whatever way they can.
The council has set up a series of Community Area Forums, where ward councillors discuss local issues and where local communities have a chance to engage with those councillors who represent their interests to the council.
Ward councillors also hold regular ward surgeries where constituents can come and speak to them about their queries and problems.
Councillors are drawn from ordinary members of the community. Most councillors stand as candidates representing political parties but you do not need to be a member of a political party to be a candidate for election to the council.
What is the cabinet?
The Cabinet is the Council's main decision-making body. It recommends a budget to the Council each year following wide consultation with partner organisations and the South Tyneside community. Once the Council has approved that budget the Cabinet is left to get on with making most of the major decisions on behalf of the Council for that year.
When making any decisions, the Cabinet must stay within the approved budget and policy framework. This ensures that the Council's efforts are channelled towards achieving the priorities that have been agreed with our partners and the community we are here to serve.
There are 9 Councillors on the Cabinet, all of whom belong to the majority party on the Council (Labour). They are selected at the annual meeting of the Council each May. The Leader of the Council and the Deputy Leader, who are also selected at the annual meeting of the Council, act as chairman and vice-chairman of the Cabinet and they each have certain "lead responsibilities". The Leader allocates "lead responsibility" for a particular area of the Council's work to each of the other Councillors on the Cabinet. These areas of work are referred to as Lead Member Portfolios.
There are scheduled meetings of the Cabinet throughout the Municipal Year. These meetings are scheduled to take place monthly on Wednesdays, starting at 4pm. Meetings of the Cabinet take place in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, South Shields and are open to the public to attend.
Copies of the agenda papers for Cabinet meetings are made available in the Council Chamber public gallery for members of the public to use and so that they can follow the meeting. However, members of the public are not allowed to participate directly in the Cabinet meeting itself.
Although the Cabinet makes nearly all of its decisions in public, there a few instances where, because of the confidential nature of the agenda item being discussed, the press and public will be excluded from the meeting. The law allows the Cabinet to do this when certain specified categories of information are being discussed. If there are any such matters to be discussed they will be indicated on the agenda. Such items are always placed at the end of the agenda so that all of the public items can be dealt with first.
Most of the business at Cabinet meetings is done with the aid of printed reports which form part of the agenda papers. These are usually printed and available for public inspection 5 clear days before a meeting takes place. However, there are a few occasions when a report has to be submitted as "urgent business", in which case this 5-day rule will not apply.
How do I become a councillor?
There are two main ways to stand as a councillor, you could:
Represent a political party (after a formal selection process)
Stand in your own right as an "independent"
Many people choose to stand in local elections as a representative of a political party. But individuals can stand in their own right as an "independent". Where people stand on behalf of a political party they will have gone through a formal selection process.
To stand as a councillor in South Tyneside they:
Must be aged 18 or over and live or work in the borough, or own property here
Must not work for South Tyneside Council or hold a politically restricted post at another council
Must not be bankrupt or have been sentenced to prison for three months or more in the past five years
Must be nominated and seconded and supported by eight other people from the ward they want to stand in
Nomination papers can only be accepted for a limited period after the official notice of election has been published. If you would like a nomination paper and an election timetable please contact the Elections Office